Gastrointestinal disturbances and their management in miglustat-treated patients

J Inherit Metab Dis. 2011 Oct;34(5):991-1001. doi: 10.1007/s10545-011-9368-7. Epub 2011 Jul 21.


Miglustat (Zavesca®) is approved for the oral treatment of adult patients with mild to moderate type 1 Gaucher disease (GD1) for whom enzyme replacement therapy is unsuitable, and for the treatment of progressive neurological manifestations in adult and paediatric patients with Niemann-Pick disease type C (NP-C). Gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhoea, flatulence and abdominal pain/discomfort have consistently been reported as the most frequent adverse events associated with miglustat during clinical trials and in real-world clinical practice settings. These adverse events are generally mild or moderate in severity, occurring mostly during the initial weeks of therapy. The mechanism underlying these gastrointestinal disturbances is the inhibition by miglustat of intestinal disaccharidase enzymes (mainly sucrase and maltase), leading to sub-optimal hydrolysis of carbohydrates and subsequent osmotic diarrhoea and altered colonic fermentation. Transient decreases in body weight, which are often observed during initial miglustat therapy, are considered likely due to gastrointestinal carbohydrate malabsorption and associated negative caloric balance. While most cases of diarrhoea resolve spontaneously during continued miglustat therapy, diarrhoea also responds well to anti-propulsive medications such as loperamide. Dietary modifications such as reduced consumption of dietary sucrose, maltose and lactose have been shown to improve the gastrointestinal tolerability of miglustat and reduce the magnitude of any changes in body weight, particularly if initiated at or before the start of therapy. Miglustat dose escalation at treatment initiation may also reduce gastrointestinal disturbances. This article discusses these aspects in detail, and provides practical recommendations on how to optimize the gastrointestinal tolerability of miglustat.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / adverse effects
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / analogs & derivatives*
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / therapy*
  • Gaucher Disease / drug therapy*
  • Gaucher Disease / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • 1-Deoxynojirimycin
  • miglustat