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Trade namesCabaser, Dostinex, others
  • (6aR,9R,10aR)-N-[3-(dimethylamino)propyl]-N-(ethylcarbamoyl)-7-prop-2-enyl-6,6a,8,9,10,10a-hexahydro-4H-indolo[4,3-fg]quinoline-9-carboxamide
Clinical data
Drug classDopamine receptor agonists
Main usesHigh blood prolactin, Parkinson's, suppress milk production[1][2]
Side effectsNausea, abdominal pain, headache, sleepiness, constipation[1]
  • US: B (No risk in non-human studies)
Routes of
By mouth
Defined daily dose0.5 to 3 mg[3][4]
External links
License data
Legal status
BioavailabilityFirst-pass effect seen; absolute bioavailability unknown
Protein bindingModerately bound (40–42%); concentration-independent
MetabolismLiver, predominately via hydrolysis of the acylurea bond or the urea moiety
Elimination half-life63–69 hours (estimated)
ExcretionUrine (22%), feces (60%)
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass451.615 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)
  • [H][C@]12C[C@@H](C(=O)N(CCCN(C)C)C(=O)NCC)CN(CC=C)[C@]1([H])Cc3c[nH]c4cccc2c34
  • InChI=1S/C26H37N5O2/c1-5-11-30-17-19(25(32)31(26(33)27-6-2)13-8-12-29(3)4)14-21-20-9-7-10-22-24(20)18(16-28-22)15-23(21)30/h5,7,9-10,16,19,21,23,28H,1,6,8,11-15,17H2,2-4H3,(H,27,33)/t19-,21-,23-/m1/s1 checkY

Cabergoline, sold under the brand names Dostinex among others, is a medication used for high blood prolactin and less commonly for Parkinson's and to suppress milk production.[1][2] Outside of pregnancy, it is preferred to bromocriptine due to less side effects.[1] It is taken by mouth.[1]

Common side effects include nausea, abdominal pain, headache, sleepiness, and constipation.[1] Other side effects include pulmonary fibrosis and low blood pressure with standing.[1] There is no clear evidence of harm of use during pregnancy, but such use has not been well studied.[5] Carbergoline works by stimulating dopamine receptors and decreasing the release of prolactin.[2]

Cabergoline was patented in 1980 and approved for medical use in 1993.[6] It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.[7] It is avaliable as a generic medication.[2] In the United Kingdom 20 tablets of 1 mg costs the NHS about 65 pounds in 2020.[2] This amount in the US costs about 72 USD.[8]

Medical uses

Invasive giant prolactinoma a) MRI pituitary before b) and 6 months after cabergoline


A review concluded that preventative treatment with cabergoline reduces the incidence, but not the severity, of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), without compromising pregnancy outcomes, in females undergoing stimulated cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF).[11]


The dose for high blood prolactin in adults is generally started at 0.5 mg once per week which may be increased by 0.5 mg at weekly intervals to a typical dose of 0.25 to 2 mg per week.[2] For decreasing milk production a single dose of 1 mg may be used at the time of birth.[2]

The defined daily dose is 0.5 to 3 mg by mouth.[3][4]

Side effects

Side effects are mostly dose dependent. Much more severe side effects are reported for treatment of Parkinson's disease and (off-label treatment) for restless leg syndrome which both typically require very high doses. The side effects are considered mild when used for treatment of hyperprolactinemia and other endocrine disorders or gynecologic indications where the typical dose is one hundredth to one tenth that for Parkinson's disease.[citation needed]

Cabergoline requires slow dose titration (2–4 weeks for hyperprolactinemia, often much longer for other conditions) to minimise side effects. The extremely long bioavailability of the medication may complicate dosing regimens during titration and require particular precautions.

Cabergoline is considered the best tolerable option for hyperprolactinemia treatment although the newer and less tested quinagolide may offer similarly favourable side effect profile with quicker titration times.

Approximately 200 patients with newly diagnosed Parkinson's disease participated in a clinical study of cabergoline monotherapy.[citation needed] Seventy-nine (79) percent reported at least one side effect. These side effects were chiefly mild or moderate:

In a combination study with 2,000 patients also treated with levodopa, the incidence and severity of side effects was comparable to monotherapy. Encountered side effects required a termination of cabergoline treatment in 15% of patients. Additional side effects were infrequent cases of hematological side effects, and an occasional increase in liver enzymes or serum creatinine without signs or symptoms.

As with other ergot derivatives, pleuritis, exudative pleura disease, pleura fibrosis, lung fibrosis, and pericarditis are seen. These side effects are noted in less than 2% of patients. They require immediate termination of treatment. Clinical improvement and normalization of X-ray findings are normally seen soon after cabergoline withdrawal. It appears that the dose typically used for treatment of hyperprolactinemia is too low to cause this type of side effects.


Valvular heart disease

In two studies in 2007, cabergoline was implicated along with pergolide in causing valvular heart disease.[12][13] As a result of this, the FDA removed pergolide from the U.S. market in 2007.[14] Since cabergoline is not approved in the U.S. for Parkinson's Disease, but for hyperprolactinemia, the drug remains on the market. The lower doses required for treatment of hyperprolactinemia have been found to be not associated with significant valvular heart disease or cardiac valve regurgitation.[15][16]

Pregnancy and lactation

Relatively little is known about the effects of this medication during pregnancy and lactation. In some cases the related bromocriptine may be an alternative when pregnancy is expected.[citation needed]

  • Pregnancy: available preliminary data indicates a somewhat increased rate of congenital abnormalities in patients who became pregnant while treated with cabergoline.[citation needed]. However, one study concluded that "foetal exposure to cabergoline through early pregnancy does not induce any increase in the risk of miscarriage or foetal malformation." [17]
  • Lactation: In rats cabergoline was found in the maternal milk. Since it is not known if this effect also occurs in humans, breastfeeding is usually not recommended if/when treatment with cabergoline is necessary.
  • Lactation suppression: In some countries cabergoline (Dostinex) is sometimes used as a lactation suppressant. It is also used in veterinary medicine to treat false pregnancy in dogs.


No interactions were noted with levodopa or selegiline. The drug should not be combined with other ergot derivatives. Dopamine antagonists such as antipsychotics and metoclopramide counteract some effects of cabergoline. The use of antihypertensive drugs should be intensively monitored because excessive hypotension may result from the combination.


Receptor Binding Affinity (Ki [nM])[18] Action
5-HT1A 20.0 Agonist
5-HT1B 479 Unknown
5-HT1D 8.71 Unknown
5-HT2A 6.17 Agonist
5-HT2B 1.17 Agonist
5-HT2C 692 Agonist
α1A adrenergic 288 Unknown
α1B adrenergic 60.3 Unknown
α1D adrenergic 166 Unknown
α2A adrenergic 12 Unknown
α2B adrenergic 72.4 Antagonist
α2C adrenergic 22.4 Unknown
β1 adrenergic >10,000 Unknown
β2 adrenergic >10,000 Unknown
D1 214 Agonist
D2S 0.62 Agonist
D2L 0.95 Agonist
D3 0.79 Agonist
D4 56.2 Agonist
D5 22.4 Unknown

Although cabergoline is commonly described principally as a dopamine D2 receptor agonist, it also possesses significant affinity for the D3, D4, 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A, 5-HT2B, 5-HT2C, α2B- receptors, and moderate/low affinity for the D1 and 5-HT7 receptors. Cabergoline functions as an agonist at all of these receptors except for 5-HT7 and α2B-, where it acts as an antagonist.[19]


Following a single oral dose, resorption of cabergoline from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is highly variable, typically occurring within 0.5 to 4 hours. Ingestion with food does not alter its absorption rate. Human bioavailability has not been determined since the drug is intended for oral use only. In mice and rats the absolute bioavailability has been determined to be 30 and 63 percent, respectively. Cabergoline is rapidly and extensively metabolized in the liver and excreted in bile and to a lesser extent in urine. All metabolites are less active than the parental drug or inactive altogether. The human elimination half-life is estimated to be 63 to 68 hours in patients with Parkinson's disease and 79 to 115 hours in patients with pituitary tumors. Average elimination half-life is 80 hours.

The therapeutic effect in treatment of hyperprolactinemia will typically persist for at least 4 weeks after cessation of treatment.

Mechanism of action

Cabergoline is a long-acting dopamine D2 receptor agonist and in vitro rat studies show a direct inhibitory effect on the prolactin secretion in the pituitary's lactotroph cells. Cabergoline decreased serum prolactin levels in reserpinized rats.

Receptor binding studies indicate a low affinity for dopamine D1 receptors, α1-adrenergic receptors, and α2-adrenergic receptors.[20]


Cabergoline was first synthesized by scientists working for the Italian drug company Farmitalia-Carlo Erba in Milan who were experimenting with semisynthetic derivatives of the ergot alkaloids, and a patent application was filed in 1980.[21][22][23] The first publication was a scientific abstract at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in 1991.[24][25]

Farmitalia-Carlo Erba was acquired by Pharmacia in 1993,[26] which in turn was acquired by Pfizer in 2003.[27]

Cabergoline was first marketed in The Netherlands as Dostinex in 1992.[21] The drug was approved by the FDA on December 23, 1996.[28] It went generic in late 2005 following US patent expiration.[29]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Cabergoline Monograph for Professionals". Archived from the original on 27 February 2021. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 BNF 79. London: Pharmaceutical Press. March 2020. p. 432. ISBN 978-0857113658.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "WHOCC - ATC/DDD Index". Archived from the original on 30 October 2020. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "WHOCC - ATC/DDD Index". Archived from the original on 11 April 2021. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
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  12. Schade, Rene; Andersohn, Frank; Suissa, Samy; Haverkamp, Wilhelm; Garbe, Edeltraut (2007-01-04). "Dopamine Agonists and the Risk of Cardiac-Valve Regurgitation". New England Journal of Medicine. 356 (1): 29–38. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa062222. PMID 17202453.
  13. Zanettini, Renzo; Antonini, Angelo; Gatto, Gemma; Gentile, Rosa; Tesei, Silvana; Pezzoli, Gianna (2007-01-04). "Valvular Heart Disease and the Use of Dopamine Agonists for Parkinson's Disease". New England Journal of Medicine. 356 (1): 39–46. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa054830. PMID 17202454.
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  15. Bogazzi, F.; Buralli, S.; Manetti, L.; Raffaelli, V.; Cigni, T.; Lombardi, M.; Boresi, F.; Taddei, S.; Salvetti, A. (2008). "Treatment with low doses of cabergoline is not associated with increased prevalence of cardiac valve regurgitation in patients with hyperprolactinaemia". International Journal of Clinical Practice. 62 (12): 1864–9. doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2008.01779.x. PMID 18462372.
  16. Wakil, A.; Rigby, A. S; Clark, A. L; Kallvikbacka-Bennett, A.; Atkin, S. L (2008). "Low dose cabergoline for hyperprolactinaemia is not associated with clinically significant valvular heart disease". European Journal of Endocrinology. 159 (4): R11–4. doi:10.1530/EJE-08-0365. PMID 18625690.
  17. Colao, A; Abs R.; et al. (January 2008). "Pregnancy outcomes following cabergoline treatment: extended results from a 12-year observational study". Clinical Endocrinology. 68 (1): 66–71. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2265.2007.03000.x. PMID 17760883. S2CID 38408935.
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External links