Important information about the water tablet bumetanide

Posted on October 19th 2023

If you are prescribed this diuretic, please read on…

Bumetanide is a diuretic (water tablet) prescribed to many patients with pulmonary hypertension. Water tablets help the kidneys to offload fluid from the body in form of urine. Without diuretics, this fluid could build up around the body, especially on the feet, ankles, lower legs, and the abdomen/tummy.

Unfortunately, specialist centres have been notified by the Department of Health’s medicine supply unit that there is a national shortage of bumetanide. Any stocks at local pharmacies and wholesalers are expected to run out in the next few weeks. The exact date for restocking is not clear, but this is likely to be February next year at the earliest.

The Department of Health advice is for all patients affected by this shortage to be switched to furosemide, which is an alternative to bumetanide.

The doses of bumetanide and furosemide are different, so you need to know the doses which give an equivalent effect:

Bumetanide 1mg = Furosemide 40mg

So, for example if you are prescribed bumetanide 2mg twice a day, you would be likely to need furosemide 80mg twice a day. 

In some cases, your GP may follow you up shortly after the switch by checking your bloods (kidney and salts) or by examining your symptoms of fluid retention.

Bumetanide and furosemide are both from the same family of medicines and work in a very similar way as each other.  Some patients find that one suits them better than the other, but the vast majority of patients can be safely prescribed either.  A confirmed allergy to either is very rare, but your GP would be aware of previous reactions, so most people should not have concerns about switching.

What you need to do

Bumetanide (and furosemide) are supplied by your GP along with your other repeat medicines.  Following this announcement, it is vital that you contact your surgery to request the switch to furosemide before you run out of bumetanide. It is important that you do not miss doses as fluid can build up quickly but can be difficult to shift.  Severe cases of fluid retention can result in admission to hospital for diuretics though a drip.  

Please get in touch with your surgery as a priority if you are prescribed bumetanide, as you need a new prescription for furosemide instead. Your GP and local pharmacy will also have been informed about the shortage and they will be the best points of contact for any questions or concerns you have.

The information on this page has been supplied by Dr Neil Hamilton, Consultant Pharmacist at the Sheffield Pulmonary Vascular Disease Unit. It applies to all PH patients in the UK.

Please note: You may see online that a drug called torasemide can be offered as an alternative to furosemide. Whilst this is a possibility, it is rare, and the Department of Health recommendation is for furosemide in this instance.