Treatments and drugs

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your doctor may recommend medications called chelating agents, which prompt your organs to release copper into your bloodstream. The copper is then filtered by your kidneys and released into your urine. Treatment then focuses on preventing copper from building up again. When liver damage is severe, a liver transplant may be necessary.


The most common medications used to treat Wilson's disease include:

  • Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen). A chelating agent, penicillamine can cause serious side effects, including skin problems, bone marrow suppression and worsening of neurological symptoms.
  • Trientine (Syprine). Trientine works much like penicillamine but tends to cause fewer side effects. Still, there is a risk that neurological symptoms can worsen when taking trientine, though it's thought to be a lower risk than is penicillamine.
  • Zinc acetate (Galzin). This medication prevents your body from absorbing copper from the food you eat. Zinc acetate can cause stomach upset.


For people with severe liver damage, a liver transplant may be necessary. During a liver transplant, a surgeon removes your diseased liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a donor. Most transplanted livers come from donors who have died. But in some cases a liver can come from a living donor, such as a family member. In that case, the surgeon removes your diseased liver and replaces it with a portion of the donor's liver.

Aug. 28, 2014