Vibrating pill can help treat constipation


A new vibrating pill shown to help relieve constipation is now available.

The drug-free solution is designed for daily use. In a trial, the pill produced at least one additional weekly bowel movement for 41% of participants, compared with at least one additional bowel movement for 23% of participants who took a placebo pill.

Vibrant was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August but is just now becoming available for doctors to prescribe, the company announced Wednesday.

Because it is not a drug, Vibrant is considered a class 2 medical device by the FDA, which is the same class as contact lenses.

Here’s how it works: Around bedtime, the pill is inserted in a pod to activate it, then swallowed. It travels the digestive tract and reaches the large intestine about 14 hours later.

“Then it goes to work,” the company explained in a news release. “After it’s swallowed, it is active for about 2 hours, goes quiet for around 6, hours and then activates again for another 2 hours.”

“There are little vibrations for 3 seconds on, 3 seconds off,” said Cathy Collis, chief commercial officer for Israel-based Vibrant Gastro, in a statement.

The vibrations help trigger peristalsis, the wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the gastrointestinal tract, the company said. Decreased peristalsis is a cause of constipation, which is defined as having less than three bowel movements per week, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

About 2.5 million people see their doctor each year for constipation. The pills are made of what the company called “medical-grade material” that is the same as what’s used to make gastroenterology cameras.

In the trial, most people did not report feeling the pill inside of them.

“A minority could feel it,” said Eamonn Quigley, MD, chief of gastroenterology at Houston Methodist Hospital, in a statement. “None of them felt it was being uncomfortable. And none of them stopped taking it because of that.”

Dr. Quigley helped test the capsules and does not have a financial stake in the company, according to Vibrant.

The pills do not dissolve inside a person’s body. Rather, “after they’ve done their job, the person’s body poops them out, and they’re flushed away,” the company said.

A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.

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