Use caution with OTC products for colon cleansing

Colon cleansing. It’s a popular health trend. Celebrities such as Ben Affleck, Courtney Love, Janet Jackson and Angela Jolie reportedly partake regularly in bowel-clearing. The process is touted as a way of ridding the body of toxins that can build up in our systems and lead to illness and hormonal dysfunction.

While some colon-cleansing professionals may suggest homemade concoctions made from lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, others rely on over-the-counter constipation remedies. But a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement urges cleansers to steer clear of OTC laxatives as a way to bowel cleanse.

The announcement came just after the FDA issued its strongest safety warning to health care providers about two prescription drugs used to cleanse the bowel prior to colonoscopies. More than 20 reports of a rare but serious form of kidney failure have occurred in patients following the use of Visicol and OsmoPrep, prescription oral phosphate products made by Salix Pharmaceuticals. As a result, Salix Pharmaceuticals added new boxed warning label to those medications warning health care providers to use caution when prescribing the drugs to older patients, those who suffer from dehydration and kidney disease, or who take medications that affect the kidneys.

The FDA then expressed similar concerns that OTC treatments such as Fleet Phospho-soda, made by C.B. Fleet Company Inc., may cause the same kidney condition if used improperly for bowel cleaning rather than for use as a laxative.

“The FDA is recommending that consumers not use the over-the-counter preparations for bowel cleansing, but that these products be used under the direction of a physician,” Joyce Korvick, deputy director of FDA’s Division of Gastroenterology Products at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a recent article in Forbes. Korvick recommended instead that those wanting to colon cleanse should consider alternatives such as GoLYTELY and HalfLytely Bowel Prep.