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ISMP Canada News

August 28, 2019: Potentially Harmful Interaction between Polyethylene Glycol Laxative and Starch-Based Thickeners

Patients with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, are often advised to avoid thin, watery liquids and to consume only liquids that have had their viscosity altered by thickeners (known as "thickened liquids" or "thickened fluids"). Swallowing a thickened liquid will improve bolus control and reduce the risk of aspiration. ISMP Canada received a medication incident about patient harm potentially associated with an under-recognized but important drug interaction between polyethylene glycol (PEG) laxative and a starch-based thickener. This incident is being shared to raise awareness of the interaction and to present system-based strategies to prevent its occurrence and mitigate the risk of patient harm, especially in long-term care homes where residents who may be on thickened fluids are often prescribed laxatives. The bulletin also highlights the everpresent need to report and learn from unexpected or novel treatment interactions. Read more …