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FDA taking steps to stop over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication abuse



SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSTM) - The Food and Drug Administration is taking new steps to curb the abuse of anti-diarrhea medication by asking manufacturers to change the way it's packaged.

Loperamide, or Imodium, is an over-the-counter medication taken to ease the symptoms of diarrhea. The recommended dose is just four tablets per day, but Dr. Jeanna Marraffa at the Upstate New York Poison Center says some people are taking much more than that.

"Thirty, 40, even hundreds of pills ... to get a high, or to treat some of their withdrawal symptoms from narcotics," Marraffa said.

When taken in these high doses, it can cause a high similar to that of opioids. It can also relieve withdrawals from drugs like heroin.

However, taking more than the recommended dose has led to fatal heart complications.

Despite the potential danger, there are no restrictions on who can buy it.

"As of right now, there are no restrictions, there's no limitations on the quantity someone could buy, and there's no restrictions on the type of packaging it has to be sold in," Marraffa said.

The FDA is now asking manufacturers to package only enough pills to last a patient a couple days, rather than a 100-200 pill bottle that could potentially last months.

"They talked about putting these in blister packs, so it would be a little more difficult to open up than a whole bottle, and then limit the quantity that comes in a particular package," Marraffa said.


The next step would be to take the medication off the shelf and move it behind the counter, making people request it from the pharmacist.

"We'll see what these current regulations will do, and hopefully eventually it can be something to be considered to be behind the counter," Marraffa said.

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