Meds and you

Updated 11 February 2013

Bisacodyl

Bisacodyl is a laxative used to treat acute constipation and to empty the bowel prior to medical procedures or examination.

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Bisacodyl is the active ingredient of Dulcolax and Megalax.

General information

Bisacodyl is a laxative used to treat acute constipation and to empty the bowel prior to medical procedures or examination.

It is only indicated for short-term use, as it may cause permanent colon changes. Laxative dependency, both physiological and psychological, can occur with inappropriate use of this type of laxative.

How does bisacodyl work?

Bisacodyl is a stimulant/contact laxative. It stimulates nerve endings in the walls of the intestine and the rectum, causing muscles in the colon to contract and stools to pass.

Fast facts

Drug schedule: Schedule 2

Available as: Tablets and suppositories

What does it do? It is a laxative.

Overdose risk: Low

Dependency risk: Medium

Available as a generic? Yes

Available on prescription only ? No

User information

Onset of effect: When taken orally, the medication works within 6-8 hours; when taken rectally, bowel evacuation is within 15-60 minutes.

Dietary advice: Do not take bisacodyl tablets within 1 hour of taking an antacid or drinking milk, as these can destroy the protective coating on bisacodyl tablets and cause a stomach upset. This medication should be taken with a full glass of water on an empty stomach for ultimate effect.

Stopping this medicine: This medication can be stopped once it is no longer needed.

Prolonged use: It is advised not to take this medication for longer than seven days without speaking to your doctor. Prolonged use may lead to laxative dependence and/or chronic constipation.

Special precautions

Alert your doctor before using this drug if:

  • You have severe stomach pain in combination with constipation,
  • You are experiencing nausea and vomiting,
  • You have ever had an allergic reaction to this or any other medicine or
  • You have persistent constipation.

Pregnancy: Avoid. Potential risk to the foetus has been reported. Consult your doctor before use, or if you are planning to fall pregnant.

Breastfeeding: Avoid. This medication is passed through breast milk and may affect your baby adversely. Consult your doctor before use.

Porphyria: Avoid. This medication may cause serious adverse effects. Consult your doctor before use.

Infants and children: Use strictly as directed.

Elderly: No special precautions need to be taken.

Driving and hazardous work : No special precautions need to be taken.

Alcohol: No special precautions need to be taken.

Possible side effects

Side effect

Frequency

Consult your doctor

Common

Rare

Only if severe

In all cases

Abdominal discomfort

x

x

Cramps

x

x

Mild nausea

x

x

Dehydration

x

x

Dizziness or light-headedness

x

x

Unusual tiredness

x

x

Vomiting

x

x

Rectal bleeding

x

x

Allergic reaction (difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives)

x

x

Interactions

Drug interactions

Antacids

Increased stomach upset

Digoxin

Possible decreased digoxin effect

Other oral medication

May decrease absorption of medicines

Food interactions

Milk

Disease interactions

The use of bisacodyl as a laxative is contraindicated if you have appendicitis, intestinal blockage, persistent constipation or ulcerative colitis.

Overdose action

Seek immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms of a bisacodyl overdose are not known but might include nausea, vomiting or stomach pain.

Recommended dosage

Adults:

Oral: 5-20mg as a single daily dose

Rectal: 10mg-20 mg once daily

Children

Oral: Over 6 years of age: 5mg once daily

Rectal: Under 2 years of age: 5mg once daily; over 2 years of age: 5-10mg once daily

This material is not intended to substitute medical advice, but is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment and recommendations.

 

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