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FDA Cautions the Use of Laxatives

Update Date: Jan 10, 2014 03:54 PM EST

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), people should be cautious when taking over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives. Laxatives are meant to relieve constipation. However, oftentimes people do not follow the medical instructions correctly, which could lead to very dangerous consequences.

The FDA announced that so far, it has received 13 reported deaths all tied to the improper use of laxatives. On top of these reports, the agency has also been notified of serious side effects from laxatives. The FDA has reiterated that people must follow the directions provided on the boxes. For example, if the drug facts label for sodium phosphate laxatives states that people can only take one dose per day for no more than three days, people must stick to those specific instructions. All of the death cases were tied to sodium phosphate laxatives.

Aside from following the directions to the tee, the FDA has also reminded seniors over the age of 55 as well as children or adults with existing kidney disease, heart problems or dehydration to be aware of the potential risks involved with taking OTC laxatives. Even though these laxatives might be easily accessible, people should always consult their physicians about which medications are safe to use.

"Caregivers should not give these products orally to children under age 5 years without first asking a health care professional. Both caregivers and health care professionals should avoid the rectal use of these drug products in children under age 2 years. These warnings against use in young children are listed on product labeling," medical officer from the FDA's Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development, Mona Khurana, M.D.

Khurana, who is also a pediatric nephrologist, added according to the agency's news release, "The bottom line is that these products are safe for otherwise healthy adults and older children for whom dosing instructions are provided on the Drug Facts label as long as they follow these dosing instructions and don't take the product more often, or in greater amounts, than the label instructs."

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