The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now warning consumers about the dangers of some over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. The laxatives consumers have been turning to for relief have been found to be potentially dangerous if dosing instructions or warnings on the Drug Facts label are not properly followed or when they are taken by people with other health conditions.
There have been dozens of reports of serious side effects, including 13 deaths, associated with the use of sodium phosphate laxatives.
The label of sodium phosphate laxatives currently states that the laxative should be used as a single dose, and not for more than three days. Also, if you do not have a bowel movement after taking an oral or rectal dose, you should not take another dose.
In addition, the labeling instructs consumers to ask health care professionals before using these products if they have kidney disease or heart problems. This information is crucial and the problem arises when users do not follow directions correctly.
The FDA is now warning that adults older than 55 and adults and children with certain health conditions should ask a health care professional before using these products as they may be at an increased risk for injury. This applies to adults and children who:
According to Mona Khurana, M.D., a medical officer in FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, the most serious harm occurred when consumer overdosed, in the ways mentioned above.
Khurana goes on to state that the products are safe for otherwise healthy adults and older children as long as they follow the label instructions. Khurana advises that the products not be given to children under 5 years of age without first asking a health care professional, and that caregivers should avoid rectal use of the products in children under 2 years of age.
Recently, in the reviews of harmful side effects reported by consumers and health care professionals, FDA has identified 54 cases of serious side effects associated with OTC sodium phosphate products. Thirteen cases were fatal, including one child and 12 adults.
Consumers taking these laxatives should watch for the following signs of a bad reaction:
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