Bowel-prep products can lead to kidney failure

March 13, 2006

Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen is warning that bowel-cleansing products containing sodium phosphate are an underreported cause of kidney failure. Specifically, products such as Salix Pharmaceutical's Visicol tablets, sold by prescription, and OTC solutions like Fleet Phosphosoda, both containing sodium phosphate and used the day before colonoscopy procedures, can damage the kidneys.

Bowel-prep products can lead to kidney failure

Consumer advocacy group Public Citizen is warning that bowel-cleansing products containing sodium phosphate are an underreported cause of kidney failure. Specifically, products such as Salix Pharmaceutical's Visicol tablets, sold by prescription, and OTC solutions like Fleet Phosphosoda, both containing sodium phosphate and used the day before colonoscopy procedures, can damage the kidneys. A study from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, published in the November 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, reported 21 cases of acute kidney failure, three of which led to permanent dialysis and one to a kidney transplant. Before this finding, the only patients thought to be at risk were those with decreased kidney function or congestive heart failure. Now the at-risk list includes healthy elderly patients and patients who've had unstable angina, a previous heart attack, or are dehydrated. Experts say the risk for developing kidney failure remains small but recommend people in the risk group avoid phosphate-based bowel preparations.

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