Salix, seeking to tackle stigma, co-creates awareness day for opioid-induced constipation

Salix Pharmaceuticals is putting a new date in the disease awareness calendar. Working with two nonprofits, the drugmaker has declared Dec. 5 Opioid-Induced Constipation (OIC) Awareness Day to try to tackle the stigma and silence surrounding this condition.

According to Salix and the two nonprofits, the U.S. Pain Foundation and the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders, 40% to 80% of people who take an opioid for chronic pain may experience OIC. Yet, many people suffer in silence. A 2014 survey found 37% of patients with chronic non-cancer pain and OIC didn’t discuss their symptoms with healthcare professionals.

The lack of communication and attempts to self-manage the condition—60% of patients reported using an over-the-counter (OTC) laxative—could stop patients from learning about Relistor, a prescription drug that Salix, part of Bausch Health, sells for use against OIC.  

Establishing OIC Awareness Day, which is taking place in Constipation Awareness Month, is intended to end the silence and help more people to receive relief for a side effect of opioids. As the OIC Awareness Day website explains, OTC laxatives are meant to treat occasional constipation. Prescription peripherally acting mu-opioid receptor antagonists (PAMORAs) are FDA-approved to help manage OIC.

Relistor is one of the PAMORAs that compete for the OIC market. Movantik, which AstraZeneca brought to market but then offloaded, and Symproic, which has ended up at Collegium Pharmaceutical after a series of deals, are also approved in the setting. The awareness day website is unbranded. Salix, which was an early user of TikTok for constipation marketing, is teaming with influencers to share information. 

The awareness drive could ultimately benefit Relistor. Bausch identified the drug as a driver of the 13% growth Salix reported in the third quarter. Sales of the constipation treatment grew 28% year on year, in part because of a 10% increase in total scripts. The growth rate represents a slight slowdown compared to the explosive first half of 2023, when Salix posted increases in Relistor sales of 29% and 42%.