polycarbophil (paul ee CARB o fill)
This drug is available in an over-the-counter form.
What is polycarbophil?
Polycarbophil is a synthetic agent that is not absorbed into the body. Its main function is to absorb water in the intestine and therefore create a bulkier and softer stool. Polycarbophil is not a laxative.
What is it used for?
Polycarbophil promotes bowel regularity and is used for chronic constipation, diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome.
How do I take it?
Follow your physician’s instructions carefully. Take each dose with an 8 ounce glass of liquid. Polycarbophil is a bulk-forming product that may require continual use for 1 to 3 days to provide its full benefit. Store it at room temperature and protect from moisture. Keep all medications away from children. Never share your medications with anyone else.
What do I do for a missed dose?
If you miss a dose of this medicine, take it as soon as possible. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular schedule. Do not double up on this medication.
Are there interactions with food or beverages?
There are no known interactions with food or beverages. An increase in water intake, a diet rich in fiber or bran and regular exercise is recommended for bowel regularity.
Are there interactions with other drugs?
An interaction generally means that one drug may increase or decrease the effect of another drug. Also, the more medications a person takes, the more likely there will be a drug interaction. Polycarbophil should be taken at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after any form of tetracycline antibiotic.
Is there a problem if I have another disorder or disease?
At times, a drug may have a different or enhanced effect when other diseases are present. At other times, the drug may worsen or effect another disease. Fiber should not be used if there is a suspicion of a chronic bowel obstruction unless discussed with the physician. It is also best to temporarily restrict fiber after abdominal surgery and when there is a flare-up of chronic bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
What about allergies?
People who have known allergies or asthma may be at an increased risk for a reaction from any new medication. The physician should always know a patient’s allergy history. Signs of an allergic reaction are skin rash, hives and itching. Of course, a person should not take polycarbophil if there has been a previous reaction to this or a similar drug.
What if I’m pregnant, considering pregnancy or breast-feeding?
Constipation can be a problem during pregnancy. It is always preferable to get bulk and fiber from foods. See High Fiber Diet below. Polycarbophil is a synthetic chemical that holds water and creates a bulkier stool, which usually is easier to pass. Since the agent is not absorbed, it theoretically should be safe during pregnancy. However, this has never been proven. The use of this supplement should be discussed with your physician.
What are the effects on sexual function?
There are no known adverse effects of polycarbophil on sexual function.
Are there other precautions?
- Always take polycarbophil with plenty of fluids. Insufficient fluid may cause the fiber to swell and cause choking or even rupture of the esophagus. Do not use polycarbophil if you have difficulty swallowing.
- Contact your physician if constipation persists for more than a week with regular use of a bulk laxative or if rectal bleeding occurs.
How long is it safe to take polycarbophil?
Polycarbophil can be used safely long-term.
How about side effects?
Adverse reactions can occur with any drug, even over-the-counter medications. Some of these are mild such as a stomach upset, which may be avoided by taking the medication with food. Minor reactions may go away on their own but if they persist, contact the physician. For major reactions, the patient should contact the physician immediately.
For polycarbophil, the following are the observed side effects:
- rumbling sounds
- mild abdominal cramps
- severe abdominal pain
- trouble swallowing
A physician’s comment…
Hard pellet stools usually reflect a condition called diverticulosis or simple chronic constipation. An increase in dietary fiber is usually the first and, often, the only thing that needs to be done. Polycarbophil, while not increasing stool bulk like fiber, can soften hard stool pellets. When that is the only problem, this drug can be helpful.