Millions of people suffer from constipation — sometimes so bad it can go on for months or years. Medications are effective, but as many as half of all those with chronic constipation get little relief or suffer significant side effects, studies show.
Now an Israeli company, Vibrant, is testing a capsule that would vibrate in the colon, rather than deliver medications.
Adding movements inside the lower intestine mimics peristalsis, the biological process that pushes waves of waste through the bowel. The researchers hope it will break up clumps of waste and encourage the system to work more normally.
They have only just begun to test the multivitamin-sized pill, releasing results Saturday showing it was safely tested in 26 patients who have bowel movements just twice a week on average.
Much bigger, longer trials are needed to show whether the pill will be effective, said Yishai Ron, the research leader and a gastroenterologist at the Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. But early tests showed promising results, said Ron, who treats a handful of the patients and presented his results Saturday at Digestive Disease Week, an international gathering of experts, being held in Chicago.
"Some of them did stop medication. Some of them really resolved constipation," he said. "In some of them the constipation returned, but they were able to not use those medications anymore."
Eamonn Quigley, chief of gastroenterology at Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas, said he's never heard of any other device-based approach to treating constipation.
"It's completely novel," said Quigley, who's been hired by Vibrant to design its next research trial, comparing the effectiveness of the vibrating pill against a placebo that does nothing. "I think it's an intriguing technology, which deserves some further study," he said.
The idea of using a pill to mimic the normal movements of the bowel makes biological sense, said Douglas Drossman, founder of the Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders at the University of North Carolina and a gastroenterologist in private practice in Chapel Hill. Drossman, who is not involved in the work, said he was impressed with their early results.
Constipation: 1-2; Normal 3-4; Loose Stools: 5-7