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Experimental Drug May Treat Chronic Constipation

Studies Show Linoclotide Is an Effective Treatment for Long-Term Constipation

Investigating a New Medication for Chronic Constipation continued...

Researchers said most of the diarrhea reported in the study occurred early on and went away as people got used to the medication.

But for about 5% of people, it was a side effect that was bothersome enough to cause them to drop out of the study.

The studies were sponsored by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and Forest Research Institute, the companies that are developing the drug.

Experts said the studies were welcome news since few therapies have been proven to be safe or effective for a condition that can make people miserable.

"If you're constipated, you become uncomfortable," says Anthony Starpoli, MD, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "You have bloating, distention, all of these sorts of things."

"I think this is great, and the safety profile is terrific from everything that they're showing," says Starpoli, who was not involved in the research. "Of course, once this is implemented in clinical practice, sometimes the picture changes."

The drug isn't yet available to patients. The drug's manufacturer has applied for FDA approval.  A decision isn't expected until next year.

"Linoclotide is actually quite promising," says Lawrence Leung, MBBChir, an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

"My concern is that it could be pretty expensive," says Leung, who recently reviewed the evidence behind treatments for chronic constipation but was not involved in the current research.

Because the elderly suffer from chronic constipation in disproportionate numbers, he thinks it will fall on public programs like Medicare to pay for the drug.

"The cost will be a concern, and I'm not sure whether governments will like to bear the cost for a drug that should be used every day," he says.

Advice to Patients

Until more treatments are available, experts say lifestyle changes are the place to start.

"While this is a very promising agent, we have to remember that we should be drinking 6-8 glasses of free fluid a day," Starpoli says, meaning non-dehydrating beverages. Coffee, tea, and alcohol, which can cause the body to lose fluid, don't count.

He also encourages his patients to get more soluble fiber, the kind that gets gummy in water. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, okra, and beans.

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