Review Article: The Role of Serotonergic Agents in the Treatment of Patients With Primary Chronic Constipation

B.D. Cash; W.D. Chey


Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005;22(11):1047-1060. 

In This Article

Editor's Note

Please note: The following announcement supersedes any information contained in this article. On March 30, 2007, Novartis, in compliance with an FDA request, suspended marketing and sales of its irritable bowel/constipation drug tegaserod maleate (Zelnorm) after an analysis of its clinical database pointed to a higher incidence of myocardial infarction, stroke, and unstable angina among patients taking the drug. For updated information on this issue, see the Medscape Alert Center on tegaserod.


Chronic constipation is a highly prevalent disorder that is associated with significant direct and indirect costs and has substantial impact on patient quality of life. It is more common among women and non-white populations and is evenly distributed across adult age groups. Constipation is a heterogeneous disorder associated with multiple symptoms and aetiologies.

Recent research has increased our understanding of the pathogenesis of this disorder and the central role of the neurotransmitter serotonin in mediating gastrointestinal motility, secretion and sensation. Abnormal serotonin signalling and reuptake appear to play central roles in the symptoms of a subset of patients with chronic constipation. This observation provides a rationale for the use of targeted serotonergic agents for the treatment of chronic constipation. As the role of serotonin in gastrointestinal function is further elucidated and additional candidate drugs are developed, it is likely that serotonergic agents will afford additional treatment options for patients with chronic constipation.

This article provides a concise review of the evidence supporting a role for serotonin in the pathogenesis of chronic constipation and a summary of the currently available evidence supporting the use of serotonergic agents for this disorder.


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