Pilocarpine treatment of salivary gland hypofunction and dry mouth (xerostomia)

Arch Intern Med. 1991 Jun;151(6):1149-52.


We studied the effects of pilocarpine hydrochloride, a para-sympathomimetic agent, on major salivary gland output and subjective responses in 31 patients with salivary hypofunction. Pilocarpine hydrochloride (5-mg capsules, three times daily) was given for 5 months and a placebo was randomly assigned for 1 month in a double-blind fashion. Objective measurements of major salivary gland output, subjective impressions of oral moisture, treatment-related side effects, and a number of physiologic measures were assessed monthly. Pilocarpine significantly increased salivary output in 21 of the 31 patients. Subjective improvement in the feeling of oral dryness, speaking, chewing, and swallowing were reported by 27 individuals. Side effects, while common, generally were mild and tolerable. There were no significant alterations in cardiovascular or other physiologic measures. We conclude that pilocarpine is an effective and safe treatment for salivary gland hypofunction and xerostomia in selected patients. The increase in major gland output provides beneficial natural secretions and relief of oral dryness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Parotid Gland / drug effects
  • Pilocarpine / adverse effects
  • Pilocarpine / pharmacology*
  • Salivation / drug effects*
  • Submandibular Gland / drug effects
  • Xerostomia / drug therapy*


  • Pilocarpine