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No more laxative? The drug linaclotide helps relieve constipation

August 10, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog

Attention, all you suffers of chronic constipation -- a drug called linaclotide may help make relieving yourself ... well, more of a relief.

A study released online Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found in two double-blind trials that linaclotide could ease constipation in people who had fewer than three complete spontaneous bowel movements per week (without the aid of a laxative, enema or suppository). Many of these participants also suffered straining, lumpy or hard stools -- or a sense of incomplete relief, if you get my drift. 

In the two trials involving a total of 1,272 people, the researchers had study participants take either a 145-microgram dose of the drug, a higher 290-microgram dose or a placebo pill once a day for 12 weeks at least 30 minutes before breakfast.

The results for both trials were comparable. In one trial, 21.2% of patients relieved themselves more frequently after receiving a 145-microgram dose of linaclotide, and 19.4% improved with a 290-microgram dose. In the second trial, 16% of patients saw a rise in the frequency of their unaided evacuations with the lower dose, and 21.3% improved with the higher dose.

By comparison, 3.3% of the placebo-receiving patients for one trial and 6.0% for the other saw their bowel movements improve.

In fact the research, supported by Ironwood Pharmaceuticals and Forest Research Institute, showed that the drug could in some cases work too well, causing mild to moderate cases of diarrhea in some patients.

"Treatment had to be discontinued because of diarrhea in 4.2% of linaclotide-treated patients as compared with 0.5% of patients receiving placebo," the authors write.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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