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Treatments for Constipation: A Review of Systematic Reviews

Last updated: November 17, 2014
Project Number: RC0607-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Drug
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report


  1. What is the clinical effectiveness of stool softeners for constipation?
  2. What is the clinical effectiveness of laxatives for constipation?
  3. What is the clinical effectiveness of bulking agents for constipation?
  4. What is the clinical effectiveness of 5-HT4 agonists for constipation?

Key Message

In adults and children with chronic constipation, polyethylene glycol (PEG), increased the frequency of stools relative to placebo, lactulose and milk of magnesia. Stool frequency was also increased in adults treated with prucalopride versus placebo. Laxatives and prucalopride may increase the risk of diarrhea. No conclusions can be drawn with regards to stool softeners or bulking agents. The available studies were generally of lower methodological quality with limited data available for many treatment comparisons or for safety.