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Treating Chronic Constipation

How Should We Interpret the Recommendations?

Abstract

Chronic constipation is a multisymptom gastrointestinal motility disorder that negatively impacts the lives of those affected. New recommendations on diagnosing and treating this condition have recently been published. This review aims to assist clinicians in applying these recommendations in clinical practice. Although lifestyle interventions and bulking agents help some patients with constipation, data are lacking to support their efficacy in those with chronic constipation. If empirical treatment of patients with chronic constipation fails, osmotic laxatives (e.g. lactulose and polyethylene glycol), a serotonin (5-HT4) receptor agonist (e.g. tegaserod) or a chloride channel activator (e.g. lubiprostone) can be considered. Osmotic laxatives, though effective at increasing stool frequency, are often associated with adverse effects such as bloating and diarrhoea and typically do not effectively relieve the multiple symptoms of chronic constipation. Use of tegaserod and the recently approved lubiprostone is supported by high-quality evidence, and these agents have acceptable safety profiles in patients with chronic constipation.

Recent advances in the definition of chronic constipation and in its pharmacological management have led to refinements in identifying the appropriate treatment needs of patients with this condition. It is hoped that these advancements will help clinicians select effective medical regimens for patients with chronic constipation.

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Acknowledgements

Dr Johnson is a consultant for Novartis Pharmaceuticals and received clinical investigator research grant support for this study. The author thanks Maribeth Bogush, PhD, and Sophia Shumyatsky, PharmD, for their editorial assistance in the preparation of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to David A. Johnson.

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Johnson, D.A. Treating Chronic Constipation. Clin. Drug Investig. 26, 547–557 (2006). https://doi.org/10.2165/00044011-200626100-00001

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Keywords

  • Constipation
  • Lactulose
  • Chronic Constipation
  • Tegaserod
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction