An article in the New York Times last year highlighted the widespread use of polyethylene glycol 3350 (sold as brand name MIRALAX), an over-the-counter laxative, in children to help constipation, although it was never approved for pediatric use.
The drug, first approved by the FDA in 1999, has become a staple in American homes to assist bothersome and often distressing bouts of childhood constipation. The concern, however, is that PEG-3350 has not yet been studied in children for periods longer than a year and concerns have been surfacing that question the drug’s long-term safety.
Pediatricians are mainly concerned because the symptom, and not the underlying cause, is treated when prescribing Miralax in young children.
Merck said, in a statement, that it recommends the use of Miralax in patients 17 and older and for only a week. They further said, “It regularly analyzes and reports all adverse event information as part of an ongoing post-marketing surveillance.” When asked if the company is intending to conduct studies to get FDA approval for pediatric use, the company declined to say.
Common Side Effects of Laxatives
If used correctly, most laxatives don’t have side effects. However, they can cause diarrhea, cramping, bloating and gas.
Some people, children included, are at risk for electrolyte imbalances when taking certain laxatives. Electrolytes help your nerves, organs and muscles to properly work. Taking laxatives can cause the elimination of too many electrolytes which can lead to other health concerns including headaches, vomiting, spasms and more. An electrolyte imbalance can be serious so it is imperative to speak to your pediatrician before use.