The effects of meclizine on motion sickness revisited

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2020 Aug;86(8):1510-1518. doi: 10.1111/bcp.14257. Epub 2020 Mar 3.


Aims: Antihistamines make up the first line of treatments against motion-sickness. Still, their efficacy and specific mechanism have come into question. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of meclizine on motion-sensitivity.

Methods: This study was carried out as a triple-blinded randomized trial involving 12 healthy subjects who were exposed to (i) vestibular (VES), (ii) visual (VIS) and (iii) visual-vestibular (VIS+VES) stimulations in the roll plane. Subjects were divided into 2 groups by stratified randomization, receiving either meclizine or a placebo. Stimulations were carried out before, and after, drug administration, presented at 2 intensity levels of 14 and 28°/s2 . Eye movements were tracked, and torsional slow-phase velocities, amplitudes and nystagmus beats were retrieved. Subjects initially graded for their motion-sickness susceptibility.

Results: Susceptibility had no effect on intervention outcome. Despite large variations, repeated ANOVAS showed that meclizine led to a relative increase in torsional velocity compared to placebo during vestibular stimulation for both intensities: 2.36 (7.65) from -0.01 (4.17) during low intensities, and 2.61 (6.67) from -3.49 (4.76) during high. The visual-vestibular stimuli yielded a decrease during low acceleration, -0.40 (3.87) from 3.75 (5.62), but increased during high, 3.88 (6.51) from -3.88 (8.55).

Conclusions: Meclizine had an inhibitory effect on eye movement reflexes for low accelerations during VIS+VES trials. This indicates that meclizine may not primarily work through sensory-specific mechanisms, but rather on a more central level. Practically, meclizine shows promise in targeting motion-sickness evoked by everyday activities, but its use may be counterproductive in high-acceleration environments.

Keywords: neuroscience < neuropharmacology; ophthalmology; therapeutics < clinical pharmacology.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Meclizine*
  • Motion Sickness* / drug therapy


  • Meclizine