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Curr Opin Pharmacol. 2008 Dec;8(6):724-8. doi: 10.1016/j.coph.2008.07.008. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

Pharmacologic treatment of constipation: what is new?

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Constipation is a common gastrointestinal disease affecting 2-27% of the population in Western hemisphere. Approximately in half of patients the diagnosis of functional constipation is made after having ruled out secondary causes. Treatment of chronic functional constipation primarily addresses education on toilet habits, dietary advice, and patient reassurance. Further therapies are guided according to functional subtype slow-transit constipation, dyssynergic defecation, and constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C). Traditionally, the pharmacologic treatment of constipation uses primarily bulking agents and/or laxatives (osmotic or secretory). However, often these therapies do not provide the desired improvement, have a short-lived efficacy and/or are accompanied by side-effects such as bloating and abdominal cramps. Thus, there is a clinical need for new, more potent drugs particularly for patients who are not satisfactorily treated by conventional therapies. This review discusses recent developments in the pharmacologic treatment of chronic constipation including recently FDA-approved lubiprostone, emerging 5-HT receptors modifiers, investigational substances, and probiotics.

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