Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Over-the-counter laxatives

Availability of over-the-counter laxatives should not be restricted

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 09 January 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l51
  1. Peter J Whorwell, professor of medicine and gastroenterology
  1. Neurogastroenterology Unit, Wythenshawe Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  1. peter.whorwell{at}

The government is being encouraged to restrict the availability of over-the-counter laxatives because of the risk of misuse by people with eating disorders.12 A further suggestion is that packaging should warn that their long term use is harmful.3 This initiative could have serious unintended consequences.

Many patients with the constipation subtype of irritable bowel syndrome have …

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