Drug Insight: from disturbed motility to disordered movement--a review of the clinical benefits and medicolegal risks of metoclopramide

Nat Clin Pract Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2006 Mar;3(3):138-48. doi: 10.1038/ncpgasthep0442.


Metoclopramide, the only drug approved by the FDA for treatment of diabetic gastroparesis, but used off-label for a variety of other gastrointestinal indications, has many potentially troublesome adverse neurologic effects, particularly movement disorders. In this article, we comprehensively review the indications and side effects of metoclopramide, and describe some common pitfalls and strategies to minimize the medicolegal risks to the prescribing physician. Metoclopramide accounts for nearly a third of all drug-induced movement disorders, a common reason for a malpractice suit. The entire spectrum of drug-induced movement disorders, ranging from subtle to life-threatening, can ensue from its use; akathisia and dystonia are generally seen early in the course of metoclopramide-induced movement disorders, whereas tardive dyskinesia and parkinsonism seem to be more prevalent in chronic users. Female sex, age and diabetes are the major risk factors for metoclopramide-induced movement disorders. It is therefore incumbent on gastroenterologists and other prescribing physicians to become familiar with the adverse neurologic effects associated with the use of metoclopramide, and to take appropriate preventive and defensive measures.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dopamine Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Dopamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Drug Utilization Review / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Gastroparesis / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Metoclopramide / adverse effects*
  • Metoclopramide / therapeutic use
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Metoclopramide