The Cost of Opioid-Induced Constipation Report

Jul 4, 2022

NEW! Discover the Bowel Interest Group’s latest report

There has been a sharp increase in the prescribing of opioids to patients with chronic pain. However, despite the debilitating side effect of opioid-induced constipation (OIC), many healthcare professionals continue to prescribe opioids.

The Bowel Interest Group’s latest report, The Cost of Opioid-induced Constipation, sets out to educate primary and secondary healthcare professionals in the management of OIC.


  • Studies suggest that OIC affects between 41% and 57% of patients taking opioids for pain and 87% of patients with terminal cancer using opioids.1
  • Constipation is one of the most common reasons patients avoid taking opioid treatments or stop taking them.
  • Doctors are prescribing laxatives for OIC, even though their effectiveness is limited.
  • In 2021, nearly 23 million opioid analgesic prescriptions were dispensed in the community, at a cost of approximately £202 million.2
  • In 2018-19, the estimated annual spend by NHS England on constipation was £168 million.3


1. Cobo Dols M., Beato Zambrano C., Cabezón-Gutiérrez L., et al. (2021). One-year efficacy and safety of naloxegol on symptoms and quality of life related to opioid-induced constipation in patients with cancer: KYONAL study. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.
2. Prescription data for section code 040702 (Opioid Analgesic Prescribing), 0106 Laxative Prescribing), and 010606 (PAMORA Prescribing) from Jan 2017 – Dec 2021. Accessed March 2022 from NHS BSA England Prescribing Database and
3. Bowel Interest Group (2020). Cost of constipation report. 2020. Available from:

The Bowel Interest Group is owned by E4H Ltd. The Bowel Interest Group receives funding from commercial partners. This allows E4H to provide secretariat support to the group. Please find out more about our supporters on our website

The Bowel Interest Group has received funding for this report from Sandoz. Sandoz have had no editorial control over this report.