Background: While it is well known that use of opioids often cause constipation, little is known about the information given to patients regarding this potential side-effect and their use of laxatives to prevent it.
Objective: To assess the degree of information provided by the prescriber to users of opioids by the time of the first prescription regarding the risk of constipation.
Method: Interviews with patients filling an opioid at a community pharmacy were performed by the dispensing pharmacist or pharmaconomist at the pharmacy. Information collected concerned the patient, the opioid, information received regarding constipation, current constipation and current laxative treatment.
Results: A total of 286 interviews were completed. Overall, 28.3 % remembered having received information about the risk of constipation by the time of the first prescription. Excluding 49 first-time opioid users, we found 91 laxative users and 146 non-laxative users, of whom 73.6 and 4.8 %, respectively, currently experienced constipation.
Conclusion: Only a small proportion of patients with a prescription for opioids remembered having had information on potential constipation caused by opioids and having received any recommendation on how to use laxatives to prevent constipation. Interventions should focus on whether constipation is present and on rational use of laxatives.