This medication is used to treat a certain type of nerve disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease). Riluzole helps to slow down the worsening of this disease and prolong survival. However, it is not a cure for ALS, and it does not reverse nerve damage or muscle weakness. Riluzole is thought to work by protecting the nerves in the brain and spinal cord from too much of a natural substance called glutamate that may be part of the cause of nerve damage.

What is Rilutek used for?

  • Extending life or the time to mechanical ventilation for people with the motor neurone disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

How does Rilutek work?

  • Rilutek tablets contain the active ingredient riluzole. Riluzole is also available without a brand name, ie as the generic medicine. It is used to treat a condition called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
  • ALS is a form of motor neurone disease that results in muscle weakness, paralysis, and ultimately, respiratory failure. It is a result of degeneration of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that are responsible for sending messages to the muscles.
  • The cause of ALS is not fully understood, but it is believed that a natural body chemical called glutamate plays a role in the death of the nerve cells in this disease. Glutamate is a type of chemical called a neurotransmitter.
It is involved in passing messages between the nerve cells and is a natural 'nerve-exciting' agent.
  • Although it is not fully understood how riluzole works, it is thought to act by preventing the action of glutamate. This may help prevent the further damage to nerve cells.
  • Riluzole treatment extends life for people suffering from ALS, or lengthens the time before mechanical ventilation is required.
  • How do I take Rilutek?

    • The usual dose is one Rilutek 50mg tablet taken twice a day - morning and evening. The tablets should be taken 12 hours apart at the same times each day.
    • The tablets can be taken either with or without food; they should be swallowed with a drink of water.
    • If you forget to take a dose, leave out the missed dose and take your next dose as usual when it is due. Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.

    Important information about Rilutek

    • This medicine may reduce your ability to drive or operate machinery safely. Do not drive or operate machinery until you know how this medicine affects you and you are sure it won't affect your performance.
    • This medicine can sometimes cause a decrease in the normal amounts of white blood cells in the blood. For this reason, you should consult your doctor immediately if you experience any signs or symptoms of infection while taking it, for example a sore throat, mouth ulcers, high temperature (fever) or general illness, as these may indicate a problem with your blood cells. Your doctor may want to take a blood test to check your blood cells.
    • Riluzole may sometimes cause lung inflammation (interstitial lung disease). If you get a new or worsening cough or shortness of breath while taking this medicine, you should tell your doctor straight away.

    Rilutek should be used with caution by

    • People with a history of liver problems.
    • Rilutek should not be used by
    • People with any form of motor neurone disease other than ALS.
    • People with liver disease.
    • People with inherited metabolic disorders called acute porphyrias.
    • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    This medicine is not recommended for children under 18 years of age, or for people with decreased kidney function.
    This medicine should not be used if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. Please inform your doctor or pharmacist if you have previously experienced such an allergy.

    If you feel you have experienced an allergic reaction, stop using this medicine and inform your doctor or pharmacist immediately.

    Pregnancy and breastfeeding

    • The safety of this medicine for use during pregnancy has not been studied. It should not be used by women who are pregnant.
    • It is not known if this medicine passes into breast milk. It should not be used by breastfeeding mothers.

    Possible side effects of Rilutek

    Very common

    • Feeling sick.
    • Feeling weak.
    • Abnormal results in liver function tests.


    • Headache.
    • Dizziness.
    • Sleepiness.
    • A tingling sensation or numbness around the lips or mouth.
    • Increased heart rate (tachycardia).
    • Diarrhoea.
    • Abdominal pain.
    • Vomiting.
    • Pain.


    • Anaemia.
    • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
    • Interstitial lung disease (see important information section above).
    • Allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis or swelling of the face, throat and tongue (angioedema).

    The side effects listed above may not include all of the side effects reported by the medicine's manufacturer. For more information about any other possible risks associated with this medicine, please read the information provided with the medicine or consult your doctor or pharmacist.

    If you think you have experienced a side effect from a medicine or vaccine you should check the patient information leaflet. This lists the known side effects and what to do if you get them. You can also get advice from your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. If they think it's necessary they'll report it for you.

    How can Rilutek affect other medicines?

    It is important to tell your doctor or pharmacist what medicines you are already taking, including those bought without a prescription and herbal medicines, before you start treatment with this medicine. Similarly, check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medicines while taking this one, to make sure that the combination is safe.

    The following medicines may decrease the breakdown of riluzole by the liver and so could increase the risk of its side effects. You should tell your doctor if you get any new or increased side effects if you are prescribed one of these while you are taking riluzole:

    • ciprofloxacin
    • fluvoxamine
    • norfloxacin.

    The following could increase the breakdown of riluzole, which could lead to lower blood levels and thus make riluzole less effective:

    • charcoal-grilled foods
    • tobacco smoke
    • rifampicin.