Generic Name: bisacodyl
Drug Class: Laxatives, Stimulant
What is bisacodyl, and what is it used for?
Bisacodyl is a laxative medication available over-the-counter to treat occasional constipation and irregularity in bowel movement, in both adults and children. Bisacodyl is also used for cleansing the colon before colonoscopy in adults. Bowel movement typically occurs in 6 to 12 hours after taking bisacodyl.
Bisacodyl is a stimulant laxative that works by stimulating contractions of the smooth muscles of the intestines, a process known as peristalsis by which intestines propel their contents, resulting in bowel movement. Bisacodyl also prevents reabsorption of water in the intestines increasing the water content, which helps soften the stools for easy elimination.
- Do not take/administer bisacodyl in the following conditions:
- Hypersensitivity to bisacodyl or any of its components
- Vomiting, intestinal obstruction, severe fecal impaction or rectal bleeding
- Symptoms of appendicitis or any other abdominal condition that requires immediate surgical intervention (acute surgical abdomen)
- Gastrointestinal inflammation (gastroenteritis)
- Bisacodyl is not recommended for use in children younger than 6 years of age because of the requirement to swallow the tablet whole
- Some dosage forms of bisacodyl may contain benzyl alcohol which has been associated with fatal toxicity in newborn babies; do not administer formulations containing benzyl alcohol derivatives to neonates
What are the side effects of bisacodyl?
Common side effects of bisacodyl include:
- Mild stomach cramps
- Electrolyte and fluid imbalances including:
- Low calcium levels (hypocalcemia)
- Too much alkalinity or acidity (metabolic alkalosis or acidosis)
- Rectal burning
Rare side effects of bisacodyl include:
This is not a complete list of all side effects or adverse reactions that may occur from the use of this drug.
Call your doctor for medical advice about serious side effects or adverse reactions. You may also report side effects or health problems to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What are the dosages of bisacodyl?
- 5 mg
- 5-15 mg orally once daily; if complete evacuation required, 30 mg orally once daily
- Children under 6 years: oral administration not recommended, because of the requirement to swallow tablets
- Children 6-12 years: 5 mg or 0.3 mg/kg orally at bedtime or before breakfast
- Children over 12 years: 5-15 mg orally at bedtime
- Bisacodyl overdose can cause severe diarrhea and electrolyte imbalance.
- Overdose is treated with symptomatic and supportive care.
You are constipated if you don’t have a bowel movement every day.
What drugs interact with bisacodyl?
Inform your doctor of all medications you are currently taking, who can advise you on any possible drug interactions. Never begin taking, suddenly discontinue, or change the dosage of any medication without your doctor’s recommendation.
- Bisacodyl has no known severe interactions with other drugs.
- Serious interactions of bisacodyl include:
- Moderate interactions of bisacodyl include:
- potassium citrate
- Mild interactions of bisacodyl include:
- potassium acid phosphate
- potassium chloride
The drug interactions listed above are not all of the possible interactions or adverse effects. For more information on drug interactions, visit the RxList Drug Interaction Checker.
It is important to always tell your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you use, as well as the dosage for each, and keep a list of the information. Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have any questions about the medication.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Constipation during pregnancy should ideally be managed with moderate exercise and dietary intake of fiber and fluid; short term use of bisacodyl is generally acceptable during pregnancy; do not use for prolonged periods
- Bisacodyl was not detected in breast milk following administration of 10 mg/day for 7 days; use with caution if breastfeeding
What else should I know about bisacodyl?
- Keep bisacodyl out of reach of children
- Swallow the tablet whole; do not chew it
- Do not take within one hour after taking an antacid or drinking or eating dairy products
- Avoid chronic use of bisacodyl; may lead to laxative dependence
- Consult with your doctor before taking bisacodyl if you have nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or changes in bowel habits that persist for longer than 2 weeks
- Do not use bisacodyl for longer than 7 days; if bowel movement does not occur within a week or if you have rectal bleeding, discontinue and seek medical help
- In case of overdose, get medical help or contact Poison Control