Albenza (Albendazole) – Oral

Warning:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not assigned a black box warnings to Albenza (albendazole).

What Is Albenza?

Albenza (albendazole) is a prescription medication used to treat tapeworm infections. It's a benzimidazole anthelmintic that works by causing the parasitic tapeworms to have low glucose (sugar). Without glucose, the tapeworms don't have enough energy for critical bodily functions. As a result, they eventually die.

Albenza is available in a tablet dosage form.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Albendazole

Brand Name(s): Albenza

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: Benzimidazole anthelmintic

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: No

Administration Route: Oral (by mouth)

Active Ingredient: Albendazole

Dosage Form(s): Tablet

What Is Albenza Used For?

Albenza (albendazole) is used to treat infections caused by tapeworms.

Taenia solium is a tapeworm, and infection with T. solium can occur from eating raw or undercooked pork. If you have any symptoms from a T. solium infection, you might experience an upset stomach, appetite loss, and weight loss. T. solium infections typically occur in the following places:

  • Asia
  • Eastern Europe
  • India
  • Latin America
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

In the United States, new residents from Latin America tend to have a higher rate of T. solium infections than other populations.

It's also possible to get cysticercosis, a disease that may happen from eating T. solium eggs. These eggs can be present in feces (stool). People with T. solium eggs in their stool and poor hand hygiene can spread these eggs to other people.

Neurocysticercosis is a brain condition caused by a T. solium infection. Albenza is specifically used to treat neurocysticercosis.

Echinococcus granulosus is the larval (young) form of the dog tapeworm. Albenza treats the cystic hydatid disease (larva surrounded by cysts) of the liver, lung, and peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity). E. granulosus infections generally happen in the following places:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Central and South America
  • Europe
  • Middle East

These infections are rare in North America.

Humans may get these infections by accidentally eating food or drinking water contaminated with stool from an infected dog. Dogs get this infection by eating organs from other animals that have hydatid cysts. Hydatid cysts are sacs (pockets) of fluid formed by the immature E. granulosus tapeworm.

Symptoms of this infection may include pain, nausea, or vomiting. Your symptoms may differ depending on where the cysts are located inside your body. Albenza is used to treat cysts in the lungs and liver. It's also used for cysts in the peritoneum.

How to Take Albenza

In general, take Albenza by mouth twice daily with food. Your total daily dose may vary based on your weight.

If you're taking Albenza for T. solium, you'll typically take the medication for eight to 30 days. The duration of Albenza treatment for E. granulosus, on the other hand, will be longer. If you have E. granulosus, you'll likely take Albenza for 28 days, followed by a 14-day break. This is considered one cycle, and you'll need to repeat this cycle two more times for a total of three .

If necessary, albendazole tablets can be crushed or chewed.

Storage

When you receive Albenza from the pharmacy, store the medication at room temperature, between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

To be safe, you can use a locked cabinet or closet to keep your medication out of the reach of children and pets. Do not store your medication in the bathroom.

If you plan to travel with Albenza, become familiar with your final destination's regulations. Checking with the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate might be a helpful resource. In general, however, make a copy of your Albenza prescription.

It's also wise to keep your medication in its original container from your pharmacy with your name on the label. If you have any questions about traveling with your medicine, be sure to ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

You can also ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider about the best ways to dispose of medications, such as in disposal boxes in your area. The FDA's website is also another potentially helpful resource to know where and how to discard all unused and expired drugs.

How Long Does Albenza Take to Work?

You may notice an improvement after three days of taking Albenza. Don't stop taking Albenza, however, even if you feel better. How long you will need to take Albenza depends on the type of tapeworm infection you have, as well as individual circumstances. Your healthcare provider may also want to inspect your feces (stools) for tapeworm eggs during follow-up visits. This is to make sure that your body truly cleared the infection.

Off-Label Uses

Healthcare providers sometimes prescribe Albenza to treat other parasitic infections not officially approved for this use, such as:

  • Ancylostoma canium: A. canium is a parasitic hookworm that can live in animals, such as dogs and cats. Infected animals shed the eggs of the hookworm through feces (stool). The immature hookworm can enter through unprotected skin when you walk barefoot or sit on the ground that's contaminated with feces from infected animals.
  • Ancylostoma duodenal or Necator americanus: A. duodenal and N. americanus are soil-transmitted intestinal hookworms. Infections from these hookworms tend to happen in places where human feces (stool) are used as fertilizer.
  • Ascariasis: Ascariasis is a common intestinal roundworm infection in humans. Infected humans shed eggs from the roundworm through feces. If the feces are used to fertilize a garden, for example, people who eat fruits and vegetables grown in that soil can develop this infection if the food isn't properly washed or cooked.
  • Clonorchis sinensis or Opisthorchis viverrini: C. sinensis and O. viverrini are liver flukes. A fluke is a parasitic roundworm. People may get these parasitic infections by eating raw or undercooked fish.
  • Cutaneous larva migrans (CLM): CLM is a skin condition caused by dog and cat hookworms, especially of the Ancylostoma species. People can get this condition by walking or sitting on sand or soil that's contaminated with feces from infected dogs or cats. This skin condition may actually resolve without treatment.
  • Enterobiasis: Enterobiasis is also commonly known as a pinworm infection. Pinworms are small, thin, and white roundworms. Pinworm infection is a common human worm infection in the United States. This infection, however, is more common in certain populations, such as children. Infected people tend to have eggs of the pinworm around their anus. These eggs can be transferred to hands and commonly-used surfaces. Infection happens by accidentally eating these eggs.
  • Giardiasis: Giardiasis is an infectious diarrhea condition caused by Giardia duodenalis. G. duodenalis is a protozoan. Protozoa are single-celled organisms (living things) from the animal kingdom. This protozoan lives in your intestines. Once it leaves the body through your stool (poop), it can live for weeks to months. It spreads very easily from hands, food, water, and surfaces that are contaminated with infected stool.
  • Gnathostomiasis: Human gnathostomiasis can be caused by various parasitic worms of the Gnathostoma species, such as Gnathostoma spinigerum. People can get this infection by eating raw or undercooked freshwater fish, frogs, eels, reptiles, or birds.
  • Gongyllonemiasis: Gongyllonemiasis is an infection caused by the Gongylonema species of parasitic worms. Infections in humans are rare. People, however, can get this infection by accidentally eating an intermediate host, such as an insect, that goes between an infected animal and a human.
  • Microsporidiosis: Microsporidia are a group of one-celled living things that can go inside other cells and cause a microsporidiosis infection of these cells. Microsporidia are closely related to fungi. Microsporidiosis is considered an opportunistic infection that typically occurs in people with severely weakened immune systems (the body's defense system).
  • Oeseophagostomum bifurcum: O. bifurcum is a common roundworm that infects humans in Africa. Animals and people infected with O. bifurcum shed it in the stool. Infection can spread by accidentally eating the infective immature O. bifurcum.
  • Toxocariasis: Toxocariasis is an infection from Toxocara roundworms. The Toxocara canis infects dogs, and the Toxocara cati infects cats. Infected dogs and cats shed the Toxocara eggs into their stool. People can get this infection by accidentally eating the Toxocara eggs.
  • Trichinellosis (trichinosis): Trichinellosis is an infection caused by the Trichinella species of worms, such as Trichinella spiralis. Animals that may commonly have trichinosis include bears, cougars, pigs, and wild boars. Humans can get this infection by eating these infected animals.

What Are the Side Effects of Albenza?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Albenza for T. solium include:

  • Headache
  • Increased pressure on the brain
  • Eye sensitivity to light
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Severe stiffness of hamstrings

Common side effects of Albenza for E. granulosus include:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fever
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain

Severe Side Effects

Get medical help right away if you develop the following serious side effects:

  • Severe allergic reaction: If you have a severe allergic reaction to Albenza, you might experience breathing difficulties, itchiness, rash, and swelling.
  • Bone marrow suppression: Albenza might cause bone marrow suppression, in which the bone marrow makes fewer and fewer blood cells. Symptoms of bone marrow suppression may include pale skin, and fast heart rate. You are also more likely to have infections.
  • Brain-related effects: T. solium can infect the brain. As the parasite within you dies from Albenza, you can experience seizures and high pressure on your brain.
  • Eye damage: T. solium can infect the eyes. As the parasitic worm within you dies from Albenza, you may experience damage to your eyes.
  • Liver effects: Albenza is linked to liver failure. If you're experiencing liver failure, symptoms may include yellowing of the eyes and skin.
  • Unmasked neurocysticercosis: If you're using Albenza for something else, it might unmask neurocysticercosis, which is a possible Taenia infection of the brain.

Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening.

Long-Term Side Effects

Long-term effects of Albenza are possibly some of the medication's serious effects, such as eye damage.

Report Side Effects

Albenza may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Albenza Should I Take?

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The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For oral dosage forms (tablets):
    • For hydatid disease of the liver, lung, and peritoneum:
      • Adults weighing 60 kilograms (kg) or more—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 400 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day, taken with meals for 28 days (1 cycle). This is followed by not taking albendazole for 14 days, for a total of 3 cycles.
      • Adults weighing less than 60 kg—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 15 mg per kg of body weight per day, divided into 2 doses, taken with meals for 28 days. This is followed by not taking albendazole for 14 days, for a total of 3 cycles. The dose is usually not more than 800 mg per day.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.
    • For neurocysticercosis:
      • Adults and children weighing 60 kilograms (kg) or more—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 400 milligrams (mg) 2 times a day, taken with meals, for 8 to 30 days.
      • Adults and children weighing less than 60 kg—Dose is based on body weight and must be determined by your doctor. The dose is usually 15 mg per kg of body weight per day, divided into 2 doses, taken with meals, for 8 to 30 days.

Modifications

The following modifications (changes) should be kept in mind when using Albenza:

  • Severe allergic reaction: Avoid using Albenza if you have a known allergy to it or any of its ingredients. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for a complete list of the ingredients if you're unsure.
  • Pregnancy: In rabbit animal studies, Albenza was found to have negative effects on the fetus. In humans, negative effects on the unborn fetus cannot be ruled out. So, ado not use in pregnancy before weighing the risks. If you become pregnant while taking albendazole, your healthcare provider may safely stop this medication.
  • People of childbearing or reproductive potential: If you are of childbearing or reproductive age, your healthcare provider will order a pregnancy test before recommending Albenza. They will also recommend an effective form of birth control for the duration of your Albenza treatment. You will also need to continue using effective birth control for one month after the end of your Albenza treatment.
  • Breastfeeding: Small amounts of Albenza are found in human breast milk. Some experts conclude that one dose of Albenza is acceptable to give to breastfeeding people. Talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to breastfeed. Your healthcare provider will help you weigh the benefits and harms of taking Albenza while nursing. They can also discuss the different ways available to feed your baby.
  • Adults over the age of 65 years: Clinical studies haven't included a large enough number of people in this age group to see whether they respond differently from younger adults.
  • Children: E. granulosus infections are rare in children. As for T. solium infections in children, albendazole seems to be equally effective as in adults.
  • Kidney problems: Albendazole hasn't been studied in people with renal impairment.
  • Extrahepatic obstruction: In people with extrahepatic obstruction (blockage), the tube that carries bile from the liver and gallbladder to the intestines is blocked. This may happen if you have gallstones. If you develop this condition, albendazole levels might build up in your body and result in a higher chance of side effects.
  • Neurocysticercosis: If you have neurocysticercosis, you have a Taenia infection of the brain. Your healthcare provider will prescribe steroids and anti-seizure medications to prevent brain-related effects. As albendazole kills the T. solium worms, these worms may lead to the following brain-related effects, such as high pressure on the brain and seizures.
  • Eye damage: If you have a T. solium infection, it may affect your eyes. As T. solium worms die in your eyes, they can cause severe eye damage. Therefore, before starting on albendazole, your healthcare provider will want to check your eyes for T. solium.

Missed Dose

If you accidentally forgot your Albenza dose, take it as soon as you remember. If it's already close to your next scheduled dose, however, then skip the missed dose and take the following dose at your next scheduled dosing time. Do not double up to make up for the missed dose.

Try to find ways that work for you to help yourself remember to routinely keep your appointments and take your medication. If you miss too many doses, Albenza might be less effective.

Overdose: What Happens if I Take Too Much Albenza?

There is limited information available about Albenza overdose.

If you think that you're experiencing an overdose or life-threatening symptoms, however, seek immediate medical attention.

What Happens If I Overdose on Albenza?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Albenza, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Albenza, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

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It is important that your doctor check your or your child's progress at regular visits to make sure that the infection is cleared up completely. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

If your symptoms do not improve after you have taken this medicine for the full course of treatment, or if they become worse, check with your doctor.

Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control during treatment and for 3 days after the last dose. If you think you have become pregnant while using this medicine, tell your doctor right away. Also, your doctor should give you a pregnancy test before you start the medicine to make sure you are not pregnant.

Albendazole can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:

  • If you can, avoid people with infections. Check with your doctor right away if you think you are getting an infection or if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.
  • Check with your doctor right away if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising, black, tarry stools, blood in the urine or stools, or pinpoint red spots on your skin.
  • Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may recommend other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Check with your medical doctor before having any dental work done.
  • Do not touch your eyes or the inside of your nose unless you have just washed your hands and have not touched anything else in the meantime.
  • Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.
  • Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur.

For patients treated for neurocysticercosis, this medicine may increase your risk for increased pressure in the head or seizures. Tell your doctor right away if you have these symptoms.

Check with your doctor right away if you have pain or tenderness in the upper stomach, pale stools, dark urine, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, or yellow eyes or skin. These could be symptoms of a serious liver problem.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Albenza?

Before taking Albenza, talk with your healthcare provider if any of the following applies to you:

  • Pregnancy: Based on available data, there is not enough information to rule out a connection between albendazole and negative effects on the unborn fetus. Therefore, Albenza shouldn't be taken during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking Albenza , your healthcare provider may safely discontinue this medication.
  • Breastfeeding: Small amounts of albendazole are present in breast milk, but experts think a onetime dose of Albenza is OK while nursing. Talk with your healthcare provider to weigh the benefits and harms of taking Albenza while breastfeeding.
  • Children: Albenza seems to be equally effective for T. solium infections in children compared to adults. E. granulosus infections, however, are rare in children.
  • Older adults over 65 years of age: There isn't enough information available to assess differences in responses to Albenza between older and younger adults.
  • Kidney problems: Albenza hasn't been studied in people with kidney impairment.
  • Extrahepatic obstruction: In extrahepatic obstruction, there's a blockage in the duct (tube) that carries bile from your liver and gallbladder to your intestines. Gallstones can cause this blockage, which may cause more albendazole to be retained in your body which can lead to more side effects.
  • Neurocysticercosis: If you're taking Albenza for something else, it might unmask neurocysticercosis, a Taenia infection of the brain. Before starting you on Albenza, your healthcare provider will assess whether you have neurocysticercosis. If you are positive for neurocysticercosis, your provider will start you on steroids and anti-seizure medications with Albenza. If you have many parasitic cysts and take albendazole, dying parasitic worms in your brain can lead to high pressure on your brain and seizures.
  • T. solium eye infection: If you have T. solium in your eyes, your healthcare provider and you will need to weigh the benefits and risks of starting Albenza. As albendazole kills the T. solium worms in your eyes, you may experience severe eye damage.

What Other Medications Interact With Albenza?

Use caution when taking Albenza with the following medications:

  • Decadron (dexamethasone): Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid (steroid). Combining dexamethasone with albendazole may increase albendazole levels in the body of people with T. solium brain infections. High amounts of Albenza might result in more side effects.
  • Biltricide (praziquantel): Like Albenza, praziquantel is in the anthelmintic medication class. When taken with food, praziquantel might result in more Albenza amounts in the body and more side effects.
  • Cimetidine: Cimetidine is a histamine type 2 (H2) blocker used for heartburn. In people with an E. granulosus infection, cimetidine might raise Albenza levels in the body, leading to more side effects.
  • Theo-24 (theophylline): Theophylline is not used as often anymore. In the past, however, it was commonly used for lung conditions, such as asthma. Theophylline is broken down by a liver protein called CYP1A2. Since Albenza is a CYP1A2 inducer, it might encourage this protein to break down theophylline quickly. So, low theophylline levels might be less effective at relieving asthma symptoms.

Talk with your pharmacist or healthcare provider to get detailed information about medication interactions with Albenza. Also let your healthcare provider know of all medicines you take or plan to take, including nonprescription products, vitamins, herbs, or plant-based medicines.

What Medications Are Similar?

There are several medications in the anthelmintic class. Albenza, however, is most similar to the following medications:

  • Emverm (mebendazole): Like Albenza , mebendazole is a benzimidazole anthelmintic. Healthcare providers may also use mebendazole off-label for E. granulosus infections. Albenza can also treat E. granulosus infections, but the FDA officially approved albendazole for this use. The FDA also approved Albenza for a T. solium infection, which isn't an FDA-approved or off-label use of mebendazole.
  • Biltricide (praziquantel): While praziquantel is an anthelmintic, it isn't a benzimidazole anthelmintic. Praziquantel, however, does have an off-label use for tapeworm infections, such as neurocysticercosis. Neurocysticercosis is a brain infection from the Taenia tapeworm. Compared to praziquantel's off-label use, Albenza is officially FDA approved for this use.
  • Egaten (triclabendazole): Similar to albendazole and mebendazole, tricalbendazole is a benzimidazole anthelmintic. This medication, however, doesn't have an FDA-approved or off-label use for T. solium or E. granulosus infections.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Where is Albenza available?

    Albenza is available as a prescription from your healthcare provider. Your local retail pharmacy may carry Albenza. If your pharmacy doesn't have Albenza in stock, the staff may order it for you.

  • Is Albenza expensive?

    Albenza is available as the albendazole generic version. So, this may save you on costs.

    If cost is a concern, consider the following potentially helpful resources: Simplefill, BenefitsCheckUp, Medicare Rights Center, State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs), and Rx Outreach.

  • Why do I need to take Albenza with food?

    Food helps Albenza get absorbed into your bloodstream.

  • Is hair loss with Albenza permanent?

    No, hair loss with Albenza is reversible.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Albenza?

If you're taking Albenza, chances are either a T. solium or an E. granulosus tapeworm infection has negatively affected your quality of life. Having a tapeworm infection has its challenges. You may have tried different approaches or treatments. Refer to some general tips to support your health. There are also some recommendations to prevent and control this infection, such as:

  • Take anthelmintic-related medications as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Take steroids and anti-seizure medications to prevent brain-related effects from dying parasitic worms.
  • Take Albenza with food to improve its absorption into your bloodstream.
  • Keep up with your medical and lab appointments to prevent bone marrow suppression and worsened liver function. Lab appointments might be every two weeks. These appointments are also in place to ensure that your body clears out the tapeworm infection.
  • Consider using a food thermometer to ensure you're cooking meat to safe temperatures.
  • Wash your hands after touching animals and before handling food.
  • Limit areas where your dogs are allowed to wander off leash or defecate.
  • Don't touch wild animals, such as foxes.
  • Don't let your dogs eat rodents and other wild animals.
  • Don't drink water or eat food that's contaminated with dog feces.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

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By Ross Phan, PharmD, BCACP, BCGP, BCPS
Ross is a writer for Verywell with years of experience practicing pharmacy in various settings. She is also a board-certified clinical pharmacist and the founder of Off Script Consults.