Disease Overview

Opioid medication disturbs normal GI function1

Patients with chronic pain are often prescribed opioids to help manage their symptoms. These medications bind to receptors of the enteric nervous system, and may consequently disturb normal GI function, often causing OIC, among other digestive symptoms. This discomfort often causes patients to use laxatives chronically, and some patients may even alter or abandon their opioid medication.1,2


The unintended GI side effects of opioids affect up to 7 out of 10 patients1,3

It is estimated that 2%-40% of the American population suffer from chronic pain.4 Opioids are the most commonly prescribed treatment for severe pain in the US—it is estimated that nearly 250 million prescriptions are filled annually.1,5

In a systematic review of randomized trials of the use of oral opioids for chronic noncancer pain, the reported incidence of OIC from individual trials was as high as 71%.3


Traditional first-line, non-prescription approaches to treating OIC have limited efficacy2

Increasing fiber and fluid intake along with taking laxatives are often first choices to treat OIC because of their safety and low cost. However, these treatment methods may not provide adequate relief.2

In fact, an estimated 54% of patients treated for OIC do not achieve the desired result with laxatives even half the time.1,6 This may lead to patients decreasing or discontinuing their opioid medication.2

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  1. Poulsen JL, Brock C, Olesen AE, Nilsson M, Drewes AM. Evolving paradigms in the treatment of opioid-induced bowel dysfunction. Ther Adv Gastroenterol. 2015;8(6):360-372.
  2. LoCasale RJ, Datto C, Wilson H, Yeomans K, Coyne KS. The burden of opioid-induced constipation: discordance between patient and health care provider reports. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2016;22(3):236-245.
  3. Wan Y, Corman S, Gao X, Liu S, Patel H, Mody R. Economic burden of opioid-induced constipation among long-term opioid users with noncancer pain. Am Health Drug Benefits. 2015;8(2):93-102.
  4. Walk D, Poliak-Tunis M. Chronic pain management: an overview of taxonomy, conditions commonly encountered, and assessment. Med Clin N Am. 2016;100:1-16.
  5. Dorn S, Lembo A, Cremonini F. Opioid-induced bowel dysfunction: epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and initial therapeutic approach. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;2(suppl):31-37.
  6. Panchal SJ, Müller-Schwefe P, Wurzelmann JI. Opioid-induced bowel dysfunction: prevalence, pathophysiology and burden. Int J Clin Pract. 2007;61(7):1181-1187.