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What Is Alvimopan?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Alvimopan is a generic medication primarily prescribed to prevent or reduce the side effects of narcotics that are prescribed for pain management following a surgery. Patients who have had gastrointestinal surgery may use alvimopan to help accelerate the recovery of their intestines and stomach. These side effects can include nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain, along with constipation and bloating. Alvimopan is a type of medication called a peripherally acting mu-opioid receptor antagonist.

The use of alvimopan in the United States is strictly regulated. Patients are not allowed to take the medication at home, but rather it is only available to those who are hospitalized. Not all hospitals can offer this drug, because they must first register with a special program and meet certain regulations. Those who do use the drug while they are hospitalized will be restricted to a total of no more than 15 doses.

This drug is available as a capsule to be taken orally, or by mouth. Those who are undergoing gastrointestinal surgery may take one capsule shortly before the operation. Following any type of surgery, patients may be prescribed no more than two doses daily for seven days. They should follow any directions the doctor gives them regarding fluid intake and dietary restrictions.

Some side effects may occur with the use of alvimopan. Those who experience bothersome or persistent side effects should call the nurse and report them. Stomach pain or mild upset, constipation, and flatulence may occur. Some patients have experienced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Back pain is also possible.

More serious side effects may occur rarely. Patients who experience them should immediately call a nurse or doctor for medical care. These can include an uneven heart rate, painful or difficult urination, and weakness. Confusion, pale skin, and unusual bruising or bleeding have also been reported. Other patients have experienced increased, decreased, or no urination, extreme thirst, and muscle weakness, as well as leg discomfort.

Before taking alvimopan to treat side effects of narcotic pain medications, patients must disclose their other medical conditions. Special tests may be needed to determine safety in people who have kidney or liver disease. Patients should also inform the doctor if they have ever had a blockage in the intestines known as a complete bowel obstruction, or if they have allergies to any medications.

Other drugs and supplements may interact with alvimopan. Patients must disclose their other medications, including calcium channel blockers, cyclosporine, and quinidine. Medications for an irregular heartbeat, verapamil, and itraconazole may also interact with the drug. Patients who have used a narcotic pain reliever in the past seven days may be unable to take alvimopan. These include fentanyl, methadone, and hydrocodone.

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