How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

This medication is a combination of polyethylene glycol 3350 and electrolytes and belongs to a class of medications called osmotic laxatives. It works by drawing and retaining water into the large colon. This softens the stool and stimulates the rhythmic movement of the muscles in the colon, leading to a bowel movement.

This medication is used to cleanse the bowel in preparation for a colonoscopy, barium enema x-ray exam, or surgical procedures that require a clean colon.

This medication will start to take effect approximately one hour after administration if taken for a medical procedure, and approximately 2 to 4 days if taken for treatment of constipation.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Each 278 g bottle of powder, to be dissolved in 4 L of water, contains polyethylene glycol 3350 240 g, sodium chloride 5.84 g, potassium chloride 2.98 g, sodium bicarbonate 6.72 g, and sodium sulphate (anhydrous) 22.72 g. Nonmedicinal ingredients: magnasweet 185, pineapple flavour, and sodium saccharin.

How should I use this medication?

To cleanse the bowel prior to a medical procedure, the usual adult dose is 3 L to 4 L of solution taken by mouth. Rapidly drink 240 mL of solution every 10 minutes until the bowels are completely cleaned. This medication should be taken without food (after at least a 3 hour fast). Some medications should not be taken within 2 hours after taking this medication; talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking other medications.

To treat constipation, the usual adult dose is 240 mL to 480 mL per day for no more than one week of treatment. If you have not experienced a bowel movement after the 4th day of treatment, consult your doctor. If you begin having diarrhea, stop taking this medication.

This medication may be chilled in the refrigerator for better taste. Do not add any additional ingredients or flavouring to this medication.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

It is important to take this medication exactly as recommended by your doctor.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light and moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children. Once the powder is reconstituted, the solution should be refrigerated between 2ºC and 8ºC.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take this medication if you:

  • are allergic to polyethylene glycol 3350 or any ingredients of the medication
  • are suffering from toxic colitis or toxic megacolon (a complication of gastrointestinal conditions that causes the colon to expand)
  • have a gastrointestinal perforation
  • have gastric retention (where stomach contents aren't moved to the small intestine)
  • have a blocked intestine
  • have ileus (a partial or completely blocked bowel)

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • abdominal cramps
  • anal irritation
  • bloating
  • diarrhea and excessive stool frequency
  • feeling of fullness
  • gas
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • hives
  • dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)
  • runny nose

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • seizure

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Electrolyte imbalance: This medication can upset the balance of electrolytes in the body. If you have a history of electrolyte imbalance such as hyponatremia (low blood sodium) or hypokalemia (low blood potassium) or if you are taking medications that increase the risk of electrolyte abnormalities (e.g., diuretics), discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Frequent or prolonged use: Use this medication only when you need it or as recommended by your doctor. Avoid using this medication repeatedly at short intervals, and do not use it for more than 1 week unless directed by your doctor. Frequent and long-term use of this medication can lead to your body depending on this medication for bowel movements.

Inflammatory bowel disease: If you have an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Kidney disease: If you have kidney disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain: If you have abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, do not take this medication. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

Regurgitation/aspiration of medication: If you have an impaired gag reflex or are not fully conscious, you may need to be monitored while using this medication because you may be at risk of regurgitation or aspiration (breathing the solution into the lungs).

Seizure: Seizures have been reported in people using polyethylene glycol-based colon preparations. If you have a seizure disorder or a history of seizures, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Pregnancy: This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: This medication may pass into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication has not been established for children.

Seniors: Seniors with heart disease and kidney disease should be monitored by their doctor if they take this medication. Talk to your doctor how this medication may affect you and whether any special monitoring is needed.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

Medications taken by mouth within 2 hours of starting polyethylene glycol 3350 - electrolytes may be flushed from the body and not absorbed. If you are taking medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.

Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications that you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. In many cases, interactions are intended or are managed by close monitoring. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.