Dry mouth can be extremely unpleasant to endure and it leads to a range of health complications. Pilocarpine is a medicine that improves saliva production, and it is available in many countries to treat dry mouth but not Australia. We are testing a pilocarpine tablet formula that your doctor will be able to prescribe to be made up by compounding pharmacies.

Oral pilocarpine as a treatment for dry mouth.

XEROSTOMIA or dry mouth is a major problem that many people experience, especially those who have received radiotherapy for the treatment of head and neck cancer. It also accompanies other diseases such as Sjögren syndrome. Over 100 medications can cause dry mouth such as antidepressants, opiates, antihypertensives, bronchodilators, proton pump inhibitors, antipsychotics, antihistamines and diuretics.

SALIVA plays many vital roles in our daily life and people with reduced saliva production can experience a variety of health problems.

REDUCED SALIVA can lead to many health problems such as altered taste perception, increased susceptibility to oral infections, formation of dental caries, oral mucositis (diffuse ulcerative lesions of the movable mucosa of the mouth and oropharynx, with consequent pain of such severity that require opioid-level analgesics), burning sensation in the mouth, poor denture fit, oral discomfort, sore throat, vocal dysfunction, difficulty swallowing foods and/or liquids. All of these collectively lead to poor nutritional status of the patient and weight loss due to significant loss of appetite.

PILOCARPINE is a prescription medication that stimulates the nerves supplying the salivary glands. This stimulates the production of your own saliva. The effect lasts for about three hours, and so it is usually taken as a dose of 5 mg three times daily, before food so that saliva produced helps patients to chew and swallow their meal.

IN AUSTRALIA pilocarpine is only available as eye drops. When these eye drops are prescribed to be taken by mouth for treatment of dry mouth they taste bitter and hinder patient compliance with treatment. Pilocarpine conventional tablets are available for treating dry mouth in many countries around the world, for example USA, UK and Europe.

OUR RESEARCH investigates a new pharmaceutical preparation of pilocarpine, Orally Dissolving Tablets (ODTs), which are little tablets that dissolve rapidly in the mouth. ODTs can be prepared in compounding pharmacies. The ODTs will be flavoured to disguise the disagreeable taste of pilocarpine. This research will provide information about whether pilocarpine ODTs are effective in treating dry mouth, and this information will help to improve management of dry mouth in Australia.


We are looking for people with dry mouth to test pilocarpine ODTs.

1) Acceptability trial – RECRUITING NOW – test the formula for its taste

We are testing different ways of improving the taste so that this very effective medicine can be used by people with dry mouth.

During one visit to the study site at any time convenient to you:

  • Taste 5 different flavoured medicated lozenges and rate your flavour preferences.
  • Compare a small tablet that dissolves in the mouth and a lozenge
  • Answer some questions related to the cause of your dry mouth
  • Expect to take 30-60 minutes
  • Click HERE to see the full participant information

2) Clinical trial – RECRUITING SOON – pilocarpine formula vs placebo

  • This will be an 18-day trial designed to test whether you benefit from using the pilocarpine formula three times a day
  • We are in the process of applying for ethical approval and expect to run this trial later in 2017

Register your interest


PROJECT MEMBERS

Associate Professor Kathryn Steadman

Mrs Rose Estafanos

Professor Geoff Mitchell

Dr Esther Lau

Dr Hugh Senior

Dr Jane Nikles

Associate Professor James McGree