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Treatments > Medications Used In MS

Brand Name Chemical Name

Dulcolax—tablet or suppository (U.S.); Bisacolax—tablet or suppository (Canada)


Primary Usage in MS

Generic Available
Constipation Yes (U.S. and Canada)
This medication is available without a prescription.

Bisacodyl is an over-the-counter stimulant laxative that can be used in either oral or suppository form. Stimulant laxatives encourage bowel movements by increasing the muscle contractions in the intestinal wall that propel the stool mass. Although stimulant laxatives are popular for self-treatment, they are more likely to cause side effects than other types of laxatives.

Proper Usage
Laxatives are to be used to provide short-term relief only, unless otherwise directed by the nurse or physician who is helping you to manage your bowel symptoms. A regimen that includes a healthy diet containing roughage (whole grain breads and cereals, bran, fruit, and green, leafy vegetables), six to eight full glasses of liquids each day, and some form of daily exercise is most important in stimulating healthy bowel function.

If your physician has recommended this laxative for management of constipation, follow his or her recommendations for its use. If you are treating yourself for constipation, follow the directions on the package insert.

The tablet form of this laxative is usually taken on an empty stomach in order to speed results. The tablets are coated to allow them to work properly without causing stomach irritation or upset. Do not chew or crush the tablets or take them within an hour of drinking milk or taking an antacid.

A bedtime dose usually produces results the following morning. Be sure to consult your physician if you experience problems or do not get relief within a week.

Do not take any laxative if you have signs of appendicitis or inflamed bowel (e.g., stomach or lower abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, soreness, nausea, or vomiting). Check with your physician as soon as possible.

Do not take any laxative for more than one week unless you have been told to do so by your physician. Many people tend to overuse laxatives, which often leads to dependence on the laxative action to produce a bowel movement. Discuss the use of laxatives with your health care professional in order to ensure that the laxative is used effectively as part of a comprehensive, healthy bowel management regimen.

Do not take any laxative within two hours of taking other medication because the desired effectiveness of the other medication may be reduced.

If you are pregnant, discuss with your physician the most appropriate type of laxative for you to use.

Some laxatives pass into breast milk. Although it is unlikely to cause problems for a nursing infant, be sure to let your physician know if you are using a laxative and breast-feeding at the same time.

Possible Side Effects
Side effects that may go away as your body adjusts to the medication and do not require medical attention unless they persist or are bothersome: belching; cramping; diarrhea; nausea.

Unusual side effects that should be reported to your physician as soon as possible: confusion; irregular heartbeat; muscle cramps; skin rash, unusual tiredness or weakness.

Medication Index

Other Medications Used to Treat Constipation

About Bowel Dysfunction

Bowel Problems: The Basic Facts
Types of bowel problems, good bowel habits, resources, and more.

Reprinted with permission from Rosalind C. Kalb (ed.), Multiple Sclerosis: The Questions You Have—The Answers You Need, 3rd Edition. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, Inc., 2004

Last updated December 21, 2004