Albendazole is a type of medication that is also called a broad spectrum vermifuge or anthelmintic. This means it can treat many types of infections with worms, such as pinworms, flatworms, some roundworms, and hookworms. Developed in the early 1970s by GlaxoSmithKline®, the drug is prescribed for both people and animals. Patients of the human variety should be aware that doctors won’t always choose this medicine, as another drug may be more appropriate for worm or other parasite infections, and there are some contraindications that might make this drug the wrong choice.
With the indicated worm infections, albendazole can be useful because it creates alterations in worm or parasite cells that ultimately cause their death. This can be an effective means for ridding the body of infections. While action of the drug is well known and it is prescribed regularly for people and animals, it has never been approved in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a vermifuge. It is approved in other countries, and is frequently prescribed in the US; it just has never been green-lighted by the FDA for use as an anthelmintic, though the drug is available for other uses.
Again, though not approved by the FDA, indications for use are agreed upon and dosages are fairly standard. The dose of albendazole varies based on the type of infection. Some people take the medicine once and others may take it in two or three week cycles, or for a defined period of weeks. As with most medicines, patients should take the exact amount prescribed in the specific way directed by physicians. Pet owners administering this drug to animals should be certain to follow instructions as well.
Those who take albendazole do report side effects like headache, nausea/vomiting, stomach discomfort, and temporary loss of hair. The drug also creates more vulnerability to infection because it can reduce white blood cells. Severe side effects include allergic reaction, blistering of the skin, reduction in urination, jaundice, or seizures. These side effects and others like development of flulike symptoms, sudden weakness, or signs of bleeding or bruising indicate that medical care is needed immediately.
As mentioned, albendazole isn’t appropriate for everyone. Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should not use it, since it causes harm to the fetus. It’s not clear if the drug passes into breastmilk, so general advice is to either discontinue breastfeeding or use a different medicine. This anthelmintic is also never recommended for patients who have past or present liver abnormalities or disease.
Certain medications may also interfere with how albendazole works. These include many antacids, certain antibiotics, and some antidepressants. Some common pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen may also have an effect. To make certain the drug works as it should and there are no dangerous drug interactions, patients should give their doctors a complete list of prescribed and over the counter medications and any herbal remedies or supplements they take.