Patients in England and Wales with opioid-induced constipation will now be able to get treatment with AstraZeneca’s Moventig on the National Health Service following the drug’s launch this week.

The move follows a decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence back in July endorsing Moventig (naloxegol) as a cost-effective option for OIC in adults whose symptoms have not adequately responded to laxatives, offering the first once-daily, oral, peripherally-acting mu-opioid receptor antagonist for treatment.

NICE is backing the drug’s use irrespective of the underlying cause of pain, but recommends that doctors consult the summary of product characteristics before prescribing it for cancer patients as there is limited clinical experience in this patient population, plus the drug is contraindicated in adult cancer patients who are at heightened risk of gastrointestinal perforation.

Millions of patients are prescribed opioid treatments each year, and OIC is the most commonly reported side effect; the incidence of the condition in patients with chronic pain varies and has been suggested to be as high as 81%, highlighting the huge scope of the problem.

Unlike conventional laxatives, Moventig binds to mu-receptors in the bowel, targeting the underlying cause of OIC at its source in the bowel without impacting opioid-mediated analgesic effects on the CNS. “Current management options are somewhat limited, and so the release of a new targeted treatment is very welcome,” said Andrew Davies, Clinical Director Supportive & Palliative Care at Royal Surrey County Hospital.