DIY bowel prep leaves GI physicians concerned — 7 insights

Patients are taking polyethylene glycol and mixing it with a sports drink to serve as a bowel preparation, which is leaving some gastroenterologists concerned, Gastroenterology and Endoscopy News reports.

Here's what you should know:

1. Although the mixture is less expensive and more palatable than commercial formulas, the FDA has not approved the polyethylene glycol solution for this use, and patients are consuming more than the government-approved dose.

2. Although some gastroenterology practices use and recommend the practice, they do so with reserve.

3. Knoxville, Tenn.-based Gastrointestinal Associates used to recommend the mixture consistently, but stopped after finding the mixture wasn't tested in a fully controlled clinical trial. John Haydek, MD, said to G&E, "We stopped using it out of concern. If a patient asks you, 'Is this prep safe?' and you don't have any ground to stand on, that makes it difficult."

4. Gastrointestinal Associates still uses the treatment for some patients, but discloses the test was not examined to the degree other treatments are.

5. Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis still uses the mixture routinely, disclosing the aforementioned lack of testing to patients. Douglas Rex, MD, said to G&E that he believes the mixture is safe and he is "comfortable using it."

6. To use the mixture as bowel prep, however, a patient has to use 14 times the FDA-approved dose, which is a cause for concern, Philip S. Schoenfeld, MD, chief of GI at Detroit-based John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, said to G&E.

7. Braintree Laboratories Senior Vice President of Research and Development Mark Cleveland, MD, said that the mixture spread through word of mouth. He doesn't believe the mixture will be thoroughly tested unless a researcher receives a grant to do so. He believes physicians need to "individualize the prep to the patient," instead of recommending one mixture over an alternative.

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