Elderly individuals may face an increased risk of hospitalization due to serious gastrointestinal problems if they are taking sodium polystyrene sulfonate for high potassium levels, which includes product sold under the brand names Kayexalate, Kalexate, Kionex and similar drugs for the treatment of high potassium often need to be hospitalized because of gastrointestinal problems.
In a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Canadian researchers indicate that patients over 66 years old had double the risk of hospitalization if they took drugs where sodium polystyrene sulfonate was the active ingredient.
Researchers studied adults over 66 years old given Kayexalate and similar drugs from April 2003 to September 2015 in Ontario, Canada.
More than 1.8 million adults were included in the research pool, and nearly 30,000 were prescribed the sodium polystyrene sulfonate drugs. These patients were matched with 20,000 control subjects who didn’t use the drug.
According to the findings, using side effects of Kayexalate and similar drugs was associated with a higher risk of adverse gastrointestinal events in the following 30 days. Patients who took sodium polystyrene sulfonate had a 1.9-fold higher risk of hospitalization for serious gastrointestinal events during that time period.
Intestinal ischemia/thrombosis was the most common type of injury. This is when a severe blood clot occurs in the intestines blocking blood from flowing to the intestines.
This can make it difficult for the intestines to work properly and in severe cases can lead to intestinal damage or death.
Kayexalate Health Concerns
Sodium polystyrene sulfonate is commonly sold under the brand names Kayexalate, Kionex, and Kalexate, is often prescribed to treat hyperkalemia, or high levels of potassium in the blood.
The drug binds to potassium in the digestive tract of the body, helping to reduce high levels of potassium. Kayexalate passes into the intestines without being absorbed into the blood stream. For this reason, some patients can experience side effects.
Side effects can include gastrointestinal problems like stomach pain, rectal pain, severe constipation, vomiting, stomach bleeding, and diarrhea. They can also include fever, chills, irregular heartbeat, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.
After case reports indicated patients were experiencing intestinal injury after taking the drug, the FDA ordered drug manufacturers to conduct new clinical studies. Case studies indicated the drug bound to half of all prescription medications it was tested with, including blood pressure medication and blood thinners. This can be especially dangerous for patients, as it reduced the effectiveness of many needed medications.
In 2017, the FDA issued a safety alert on Kayexalate calling for separate dosing guidelines so the drug didn’t interact with other medications taken at the same time. One of the new studies conducted after the agency ordered the new clinical trials indicated the drug bound to many commonly prescribed oral medications decreasing absorption and effectiveness.
Researchers warn that, due to the heightened hospitalization risk, additional studies should be conducted, and Kayexalate should be prescribed to elderly patients with extreme caution, as well as patients taking other medications.