Bisacodyl

About bisacodyl

Bisacodyl is a laxative. This type of medicine can help you empty your bowels if you have constipation (difficulty pooing).

Bisacodyl is also used in hospitals to help you empty your bowels before surgery or some examinations or treatments. Your hospital will explain how to use it.

Bisacodyl comes as a tablet and a suppository (a medicine that you push gently into your anus).

The tablets and suppositories are available on prescription. Small packs are available to buy from supermarkets (up to 20 tablets).

Before trying bisacodyl, it's better to try other ways to help your constipation by:

Only use bisacodyl if you have tried other types of laxatives first such as:

Key facts

Who can and cannot take bisacodyl

Bisacodyl can be used by most adults aged 18 years and over.

Young people aged 12 to 17 years can take bisacodyl tablets and use suppositories if a doctor or pharmacist says it's OK.

Children aged 11 years and under can only take and use bisacodyl if a doctor prescribes it.

Important

Only give bisacodyl to someone under the age of 18 if a doctor or pharmacist recommends it.

Bisacodyl is not suitable for some people. To make sure it's safe for you, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have:

For suppositories, also tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have:

How and when to take or use bisacodyl

Dosage for tablets

Always follow the advice of a pharmacist or doctor, and the instructions that come with your medicine.

Bisacodyl tablets you buy (self-treatment)

The usual dose for adults and young people aged 12 years and over is 5mg to 10mg, taken once a day at bedtime.

If you have not taken bisacodyl before, start with one 5mg tablet and if that does not work you can increase the dose to a maximum of two 5mg tablets (10mg) at bedtime.

Information for ages 12 to 17

Only give bisacodyl tablets that you buy to someone aged 12 to 17 years if a doctor or pharmacist recommends it.

Bisacodyl tablets prescribed by a doctor

The usual starting dose for adults, and children aged 4 years and over, is 5mg, taken once a day at bedtime. A doctor may prescribe higher doses (up to a maximum of 20mg, taken once a day) if necessary.

Dosage for suppositories

The usual dose for:

How to take tablets

Take the medicine once a day just before bedtime.

You can take it with or without food. Swallow the tablet whole with water. Do not take them with milk.

Do not take bisacodyl tablets at the same time as:

Leave a gap of 1 hour between taking any of these and taking your bisacodyl tablets. This is because they will stop the medicine working properly.

How to use suppositories

Read the instructions in the leaflet inside the package. They will explain how to use the suppository.

Take the wrapping off and push a suppository gently into your anus (bottom).

Suppositories work quickly (usually between 10 and 45 minutes), so use it when you know you will be near a toilet.

What if I forget to take it?

If you forget a dose of bisacodyl, just take the next dose at the usual time.

Never take 2 doses at the same time. Never take an extra dose to make up for a forgotten one.

What if I take too much?

Taking an extra dose of bisacodyl is unlikely to harm you. You may get diarrhoea and stomach pain, but this should get better within a day or two.

If you're worried, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Side effects

Common side effects

Like all medicines, bisacodyl may cause side effects in some people, but many people have no side effects or only minor ones.

Common side effects, which happen in more than 1 in 100 people, are:

These side effects are mild and usually go away after a couple of days. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if the side effects bother you or do not go away.

Serious side effects

Call your doctor straight away if these rare side effects happen to you:

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to bisacodyl.

These are not all the side effects of bisacodyl. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.

How to cope with side effects of bisacodyl

What to do about:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Bisacodyl and pregnancy

Bisacodyl tablets or suppositories are not generally recommended if you are pregnant. Talk to your doctor about whether taking bisacodyl is right for you.

If you are pregnant, it's better to try to treat constipation first without taking a medicine. Your doctor or midwife will advise you to eat more fibre and drink plenty of fluids. It may also help to increase your level of exercise if you can.

If diet and lifestyle changes do not work, your doctor or midwife may recommend other laxatives, such as lactulose or Fybogel. These are more suitable to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Bisacodyl and breastfeeding

If your doctor or midwife recommends bisacodyl, rather than lactulose or Fybogel, it's OK to use it while you're breastfeeding. It does not seem to pass into breast milk and is very unlikely to affect your baby.

As with any medicine, if you notice that your baby is not feeding as well as usual, or if you have any other concerns about your baby, talk to your health visitor, midwife or doctor as soon as possible.

For more information about how bisacodyl can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.

Cautions with other medicines

Mixing bisacodyl with herbal remedies or supplements

Some medicines, and some foods, affect the way bisacodyl works.

They include:

There is not enough research to know if complementary medicines and herbal remedies are safe to take with bisacodyl. They are not tested in the same way as other medicines.

Common questions about bisacodyl

How does bisacodyl work? When will I feel better? How long will I take bisacodyl for? Is it safe to take bisacodyl for a long time? Can I take different laxatives together? Are other laxatives any better? Will it affect my fertility? Will it affect my contraception? Is there any food and drink I need to avoid? Can I drink alcohol with it? Can I use bisacodyl after surgery? Can lifestyle changes help with constipation?