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Drugs. 1998 Oct;56(4):523-35.

Ergot alkaloids. Current status and review of clinical pharmacology and therapeutic use compared with other oxytocics in obstetrics and gynaecology.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Hospital Nijmegen St Radboud, The Netherlands.


Ergot alkaloids are well known preparations. Ergot alkaloids used in obstetrics and gynaecology are ergometrine (ergonovine; EM), methylergometrine (methergine; ME) and bromocriptine. The pharmaceutical properties of ME EM) are critical. To guarantee stability, ME and EM ampoules should be stored in a cool, dark place. ME and EM tablets are unstable in all conditions and they show an unpredictable bioavailability, which prevents oral use of the drugs for any purpose. ME and EM are known for their strong uterotonic effect and, compared with other ergot alkaloids, for their relatively slight vasoconstrictive abilities. ME and EM do have a place in the management of the third stage of labour as they are strong uterotonics. They act differently from oxytocin and prostaglandins, and have different adverse effects. Oxytocin should be used as prophylaxis or a the drug of first choice; next, ME or EM should be used, and if none of these drugs produce the desired effects, prostaglandins should be used to control bleeding. Ergot alkaloid use in gynaecology has been limited and today is discouraged even in essential menorrhagia. It is suggested that EM and ME be used (parenterally) only in first trimester abortion curettage, to reduce blood loss. Bromocriptine has been used for lactation suppression. However, alternatives such as cabergoline, which possess fewer adverse effects, are now available and therefore preferred for this indication. In sum, there is no place for the prophylactic use of ME and EM in obstetrics or gynaecology. They can be used for therapeutic purposes in the third stage of labour. During use, the practitioner must be alert for adverse effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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