Constipation is common: present in up to 15% of healthy adults,1 39% of medical inpatients on admission, and develops over the course of hospitalization in 43%2 Given the frequency of bowel symptoms and provider diligence in treating constipation, laxative use in the hospital is common. While relatively inexpensive themselves, the indirect costs of laxatives include: pharmacy inventory management and distribution; nursing administration time; a contribution to polypharmacy; and downstream investigations (eg, Clostridium difficile testing) in the case of laxative-induced diarrhea. Evidence supporting the efficacy of certain laxatives is lacking, particularly docusate sodium/calcium,3 and so we quantified local patterns of laxative use, and estimated some of the associated costs.
Lee TC, McDonald EG, Bonnici A, Tamblyn R. Pattern of Inpatient Laxative UseWaste Not, Want Not. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(8):1216-1217. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.2775