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Gabrielle M. Etzel, Healthcare Reporter


NextImg:Laxative shortage sweeps US as diet and work habits leave stores 'literally running out'

Laxatives are the latest pharmaceutical product to be added to the list of drug shortages in the United States as more people are struggling to find constipation-relieving products on store shelves.

"It’s crazy to think that our collective bowel dysfunction problems have gotten so bad that we’re literally running out of stool softeners," Dr. George Pavlou, president of Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey, told Fox Business.

BIDEN DRUG PRICE NEGOTIATIONS RISK SHORTAGES OF KEY CLASS OF DRUGS, INDUSTRY WARNS

Demand-side factors appear to be the primary cause of the laxative shortage, especially because of an increase in young Americans aged 18 to 42 purchasing more dietary supplements, including fiber and stool softeners.

Part of this spike in demand stems from TikTok influencers touting laxatives as a weight loss mechanism, signaling the potential rise of eating disorders among young women, the population that primarily views visual social media.

Changing work patterns, especially the switch to hybrid or fully remote work, could also be fueling the increased need for constipation relief among early career professionals.

Not only does an individual's comfort level with the restroom environment make a difference in gastrointestinal activity, but also, working from home is often correlated with poorer diet and exercise patterns, encouraging a sedentary lifestyle.

"People are less likely to be commuting, walking around — so that definitely can cause or increase constipation," gastroenterology social media influencer Wendi LeBrett told Insider.

Overall, rising rates of anxiety and other mental health stressors could also be contributing to society's changing bowel habits.

Older generations are also increasingly relying upon laxatives, which experts also say is due to sub-optimal levels of dietary fiber.

LeBrett recommends not turning to laxatives first when experiencing chronic constipation but rather increasing fiber intake, whether through diet or supplement and increasing exercise.

Drug shortages have been a common occurrence since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown that disrupted global supply chains.

Various cardiac medications, cancer treatments, and antibiotics are also in short supplies along with other essential pharmaceutical products such as sterilized water and saline solution.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Leadership in the House Energy and Commerce Committee has made addressing drug shortages a top priority as representatives return to the Capitol this week, considering multiple bills aimed at increasing the supply of "life-saving" medications, especially when in the midst of a public health emergency or other unexpected spikes in demand.

The three primary makers of on-brand laxatives — Colace, Ducolax, and Miralax — have not yet responded to the Washington Examiner's request for comment on the supply-side factors that could be contributing to the problem.