Pharmacy giant Sanofi has warned of supply constraints facing its over-the-counter gastroenterology medication Dulcolax, a laxative, according to a Sept. 12 report from NBC News.
Physicians are warning the general public not to overuse it for purposes other than its intended purpose, constipation relief. Some use the product for other purposes, including weight loss.
"Over the past few months, we have seen unprecedented demand for Dulcolax products," a Sanofi spokesperson told NBC. "As a result, some retailers temporarily may not have certain Dulcolax products on their shelves."
Drugmaker Haleon is seeing similar demand for its fiber supplement Benefiber, which is used off-label as a laxative, though it has not reported any shortages.
The demand for polyethylene glycol 3350, the generic name for MiraLax, has also led to shortages in some drug stores, although the FDA has not declared a national shortage.
Gastroenterologists have seen a rise in constipation as an illness, which physicians are attributing to people becoming less active, eating less healthy diets and taking more medications.
In 2002, U.S. consumers spent $800 million on over-the-counter laxatives. That number has risen to $1.5 billion. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, 16 percent of U.S. adults have constipation symptoms.
On social media platforms including TikTok, some people have been posting videos encouraging a MiraLax "detox" for weight loss.
Generally, gastroenterologists advise against using these products for weight loss, warning of side effects including cramping, gas and bloating. Abusing laxatives may lead to dehydration, cramping, nausea, vomiting or low potassium levels in the blood, which can increase the risk of a heart attack.