Constipation Relief Without Serious Side Effects?

Lubiprostone may help mitigate chronic constipation with mild side effects

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

(RxWiki News) For people with chronic constipation, sometimes dietary changes like drinking more water and eating more fiber may not fully solve the problem. Researchers recently looked at one medication that may provide relief to people with chronic constipation without serious side effects.

The researchers found that reports of diarrhea, nausea and headache in patients who had taken lubiprostone (brand name Amitiza) were mild to moderate in severity. These side effects were reported to be random and temporary.

In another study, the researchers also found lubiprostone helped patients with a history of constipation. For these patients, lubiprostone was a better treatment for relieving their constipation symptoms compared to treatments they had taken in the past.  

The results of these studies suggest that lubiprostone was an effective, long-term treatment for reducing the severity of constipation with mild side effects in patients.

"Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of your medication."

In their first study, Taryn Joswick, BS, PMP, Director of Clinical Development at Sucampo Pharma Americas, Inc., and colleagues aimed to examine the most frequent side effects of lubiprostone in patients with constipation.

This study included 1,429 patients — 1,113 patients who had taken lubiprostone and 316 who had taken a placebo (fake medication) to treat their constipation. The most common side effects in this study included diarrhea, headache and nausea.

A total of 79.1 percent of patients taking lubiprostone reported at least one of these three side effects. The researchers reported that 31.1 percent of the patients who took lubiprostone experienced nausea, 13.2 percent experienced headache and 13.2 percent experienced diarrhea.

Among the patients who experienced nausea while taking lubiprostone, 88.7 percent reported that their nausea was moderate or mild. Headache and diarrhea symptoms were also reported moderate or mild by 89.8 percent and 82.3 percent of lubiprostone patients, respectively.

Overall, about one of every five lubiprostone patients discontinued use because of side effects. 

“Nausea, headache and diarrhea associated with lubiprostone use are generally mild to moderate in severity, intermittent and limited in duration,” the researchers wrote.

In a second study, the researchers examined the effectiveness of lubiprostone for patients whose previous medications provided little relief from their constipation. Data was used from 265 participants from two previous studies. Patients had constipation for at least six months and had tried other methods for constipation treatment like contact laxatives or enemas.

Spanning a period of four weeks, 52.8 to 67.2 percent of patients who had taken lubiprostone had a full response to treatment. Only 32.3 to 47.4 percent of patients who had taken a placebo had a full response to recovery in four weeks time.

“Given the statistically significant response to lubiprostone in patients refractory to other constipation therapies, lubiprostone may be a helpful addition to the medications for patients suffering from chronic idiopathic constipation,” the researchers wrote.

"Lubiprostone is an excellent choice for patients that are non responsive to other treatment modalities. More than half of all patients that have not had success with other medications, achieved therapeutic response to Amitiza(R). Speak to your pharmacist about the potential side effects before taking this, and all medications," Nario Rene Cantu, RPh, a pharmacist at Cantu's Pharmacy, told dailyRx News. 

This study was presented on September 13 at the Annual Meeting of the Swiss Society of Gastroenterology (SGG) by Sucampo Pharmaceutical, Inc., the maker of the Amitiza.

Taryn Joswick and co-authors are employees of Sucampo.

Review Date: 
September 16, 2013
Last Updated:
September 18, 2013