Updated 13 January 2017


Carbocisteine is a mucolytic, a substance that assists in breaking up mucus in the airways.


Carbocisteine is the active ingredient of Betaphlem, Bronchette, Co-Flem, Flemex, Flemgo, Flemlite, Lessmusec, Mucoflem, Mucolinct and Mucospect.

General Information

Carbocisteine is a mucolytic, a substance that assists in breaking up mucus in the airways. It is used as adjunctive therapy in respiratory tract disorders associated with thick mucus in the absence of an infection.

It is often prescribed in the treatment of bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reducing mucus viscosity, allowing the sufferer to bring up mucus more easily. This medication is furthermore applied as a frontline treatment in the treatment of paracetamol poisoning.

Carbocisteine should be used with great care in patients with stomach ulcers.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: schedule 2

Available as: carbocisteine is available as capsules, syrup

What does it do? carbocisteine thins mucus in the airways

Overdose risk: low

Dependence risk: low

Is carbocisteine available as a generic? yes

Is carbocisteine available on prescription only? no

User information

Dietary advice: This medication should best be taken with meals to prevent gastrointestinal effects.

Stopping this medicine: This medication can be safely stopped when no longer needed.

Prolonged use: Carbocisteine is generally not used for prolonged periods of time.

Special precautions

Consult your doctor before using this drug if you have or had a stomach ulcer

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your baby. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. It is unknown how this medication may affect your condition. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: Safety and efficacy of this medication have not been established for children under the age of 2.

Elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work: Caution is advised as use of this medication may lead to dizziness. Avoid such activities until you know how this medication affects you.

Alcohol: Avoid concomitant use of alcohol with this medication as it may intensify gastrointestinal side effects.

Possible side effects

Side effect


Consult your doctor



Only if severe

In all cases




diarrhoea constipation






skin rash/ itching












black tarry stools




Disease interactions

Use with caution if you have or had a stomach ulcer.

Overdose action

A small overdose is no cause for concern. In case of an intentional large overdose, seek emergency medical attention. Symptoms may include nausea, diarrhoea, headache, dizziness and palpitations.

Recommended dosage

Adults: 1.5-2.25 g per day divided in 3 doses


2-5 years: 62.5-125 mg 4 times a day

6-12: 250 mg 3 times a day

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.


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Professor Keertan Dheda has received several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others. Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute.

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