Prostate Rx Busted Up Big Kidney Stones

Tamsulosin may help patients pass large kidney stones, but not small ones

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Anyone who has had one will probably say that passing kidney stones can be downright painful. In some cases, a medication used for another urinary problem could help with that problem.

A recent study from Australia assessed the effectiveness of tamsulosin in helping people pass kidney stones. Researchers found the drug was more effective for those with large stones than those with small stones. Tamsulosin (brand name Flomax) is a drug used to help urine to flow more easily in men with enlarged prostates.

“Kidney stones bring more than a million Americans a year to emergency departments because they are excruciatingly painful,” said lead author Jeremy S. Furyk, MBBS, MPH, TM, of the Townsville Hospital Queensland in Australia, in a press release. “The news on small kidney stones isn’t positive, but tamsulosin appears to offer benefit to those unlucky people whose kidney stones are really big.”

The prostate is a gland in men that surrounds the urethra, the passage from the urinary bladder to the outside of the body. As men age, the prostate can become enlarged and restrict urine flow.

Tamsulosin is part of a drug class called alpha 1-blockers, which relax the muscles in the prostate and bladder neck, making it easier to empty the bladder.

Dr. Furyk and colleagues studied 403 patients. Of these patients, 81 percent were men. All patients had kidney stones confirmed with CT imaging scans.

The patients were given either 0.4 milligrams of tamsulosin or a placebo (a fake drug). After 28 days, 316 of these patients had another CT scan.

Dr. Furyk and team found that 87 percent of patients in the tamsulosin group had passed the stone — compared to 82 percent of those in the placebo group.

Among patients in the tamsulosin group with large stones, 83 percent had passed the stone. In the placebo group patients with large kidney stones, 61 percent had passed the stone.

Tamsulosin did not really make a difference in small stones — only in large stones, Dr. Furyk and team said.

“For patients with small kidney stones, time seems to be the one sure cure,” Dr. Furyk said. “However, when treating patients with large kidney stones, emergency physicians should definitely consider tamsulosin.”

This study was published in the July issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The Queensland Emergency Medicine Research Foundation funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 21, 2015
Last Updated:
July 31, 2015