US regulators are trying to make anti-diarrhea pills harder to abuse amid a surge in reports of deaths and heart problems from the medication.
Loperamide, sold as Imodium, slows down the movement of the gut to make stool less watery using an opioid, which induces a high akin to OxyContin.
Often distributed in large bottles, it has become commonly abused in both the United States and the UK.
Today, a 23-year-old British woman was pronounced dead after taking a ‘high level’ of Imodium, a year after a 27-year-old father collapsed and died of the same cause.
On Tuesday, the US Food and Drug Administration declared the issue a serious one in America too, sending letters to manufacturers of diarrhea medicine loperamide.
Loperamide, sold as Imodium, slows down the movement of the gut to make stool less watery using an opioid, which induces a high akin to OxyContin (file image)
Their first step is to ask manufacturers to ensure that packages contain only a limited amount of the drug that is appropriate for use for short-term diarrhea.
The agency wants to eliminate the large bottles in which loperamide is often sold because the abuse of the drug requires such large quantities.
The FDA is also asking online retailers which sell loperamide to take voluntary steps to address the issue. It is also influencing doctors to prescribe shorter-duration opioids.
The actions come amid reports of serious heart problems and death in patients who have taken higher-than-recommended doses of the drug or have misused it, the FDA said.
They are also part of the agency’s efforts to reduce patients’ exposure to opioids, which killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Loperamide is used to treat short-term symptoms of diarrhea, including Traveler’s diarrhea – a digestive tract disorder that commonly causes loose stools and abdominal cramps.
The drug is sold under the brand name Imodium A-D, as store brands and as generics.
Imodium is marketed by Johnson & Johnson in the United States.