Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) and Electrolytes

  • Pharmacy Author:
    Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD

    Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.

  • Medical and Pharmacy Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

woman with abdominal pain

What are PEG and electrolytes?

PEG and electrolytes are oral solutions used prior to colonoscopy and other examinations or procedures to cleanse the intestines, in particular, the large bowel or colon. The PEG remains in the intestines where it retains water by producing an osmotic effect. This causes a watery stool, in fact, diarrhea, which rapidly cleanses the bowel within hours. Polyethylene 3350 is used in all of the formulations. Since electrolytes (sodium, potassium, etc.) are lost with diarrhea, electrolytes are added to the PEG to replace or prevent the losses. The electrolytes and their concentrations may vary from product-to-product. PEG and electrolyte containing products are mixed with water and drunk for the cleanse.

What are examples of PEG and electrolytes available in the United States?

Examples of PEG and electrolytes brand names are:

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

What are the side effects of PEG and electrolytes?

Side effects of PEG and electrolytes are:

What drugs interact with PEG and electrolytes?

Oral medications administered within one hour of the start of PEG and electrolytes may be flushed from the body and may not be absorbed.

What formulations of PEG and electrolytes are available?

PEG and electrolytes are available as oral powder for solution.

  • Colyte, Golytely, and Gavilyte contain polyethylene glycol 3350, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium sulfate.
  • Moviprep contains polyethylene glycol 3350, sodium sulfate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium ascorbate and ascorbic acid.
  • Nulytely contains polyethylene glycol 3350, sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and potassium chloride.
  • Trilyte contains polyethylene glycol 3350, sodium chloride, sodium bicarbonate and potassium chloride.
  • Colyte, Nulytely and Trilyte are available with flavor packs.

What about taking PEG and electrolytes during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

The FDA classifies PEG and electrolytes as pregnancy category C, which means that there is no evidence of safe and effective use of PEG and electrolytes for pregnant women. PEG and electrolytes should be given to pregnant women only if clearly needed.

It is not known whether PEG and electrolytes enter breast milk; therefore, PEG and electrolytes must be used with caution in mothers who are breastfeeding.

Medically reviewed by John Cunha, DO

REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Informaiton.

Quick GuideDigestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

Digestive Disorders: Common Misconceptions

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Reviewed on 8/8/2017
References
Medically reviewed by John Cunha, DO

REFERENCE: FDA Prescribing Informaiton.

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