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Fleet Recall: Alternatives to PhosphoSoda for Colonoscopy Prep

Harvey Kirk

In December 2008, CB Fleet Company, Inc. recalled their colonoscopy prep Fleet Phosphosoda after the FDA indicated it should not be available over-the-counter. For years Fleet promoted their laxative for use at high doses as a bowel prep without adequate warnings about the potential risk for kidney damage. If proper warnings had been provided, many people may have avoided potentially life-threatening health problems by choosing one of the available Fleet Phospho Soda alternatives.

>INFORMATION: Fleet Phospho-soda Lawsuits

The Fleet recall was issued for Fleet Phospho-soda and Fleet Phospho-soda EZ Prep due to a potential risk that the high doses necessary for bowel cleansing may lead to acute phosphate nephropathy, a severe form of kidney damage that could cause renal failure, dialysis treatment or death.

Fleet Phosphasoda contains oral sodium phosphate, which was only approved for over-the-counter use as a laxative. However, about 15 years ago Fleet began marketing the use of double doses to cleanse the bowels before a colonoscopy or other surgical procedure.

There are currently two other oral sodium phosphate products that are approved by the FDA with a prescription, Visicol tablets and OsmoPrep tablets. The FDA has required the manufacturers to add a new “black box” warning about the potential risk of acute phosphate nephropathy and patients will now be provided with a Medication Guide to help make sure they are aware of the potential side effects.

CB Fleet Company has indicated that they plan to seek approval to reintroduce Phospho soda as a prescription product with the same new warnings that have been applied to Visicol and OsmoPrep.

However, there are several Fleet Phospho-soda alternatives that are already available that do not contain oral sodium phosphate and do not appear to carry the same risk of kidney damage. These include PEG solutions such as Golytely, Halflytely and Moviprep.


The Fleet Phosphosoda lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are investigating potential lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been diagnosed with acute phosphate nephropathy or kidney damage after using a double dose of the oral sodium phosphate solution to cleanse their bowels before surgery or a colonoscopy.

CB Fleet has been aware of the potential risk of kidney damage for a number of years, yet they continued to market use of the product at high doses and failed to warn about the risk. If individuals had been warned about the risk of acute phosphate nephropathy, many may have chosen alternatives to Fleet Phospho-soda and avoided these problems.

To review a potential case with an attorney and find out if compensation may be available, request a free consultation and case evaluation.

Posted in Fleet | 16 Comments »

16 Comments Add Your Comments

  1. I am a 53 year old female, I had a colonoscopy 2007, using a fleet prep kit. It was my first colonoscopy. I have since had urinary incontinence problems. I asked my physician if it was age related and she said it was unlikely. I NEVER had any issues with kidney/bladder control until then and really did not know what the cause was until I read about the recall.

  2. I am a Crohn’s Disease patient. I have had more colonoscopies than I care to recall, and I bet a lot more than you folks. I have used both Golytely (called Colye too) and Fleet Phosphosoda. Believe me, Fleet is better.

    With Golytely, you get a gallon jug with powdered product in the bottom, and are instructedfill it with water, chill, andstarting thenight before the procedure, to drink a coffee mug full every 15 minutes until you start going to the bathroom all night. The taste is vile, worse than you think, and you quickly fill up with water and bloat, until you finally begin to “go.” I find it nearly impossible to get down, winding up gagging and having heaves. Of course, if I do barf it, it will not do the colon prep.

    With Fleet, you are also supposed to drink many glasses of water–but they are regular water and you don’t gag. The water, of course, is to do the washing out of the colon. It is also to keep you from becoming dehydrated by the prep, no matter which one you are using. Both of them suck the fluid out of your colon & make you go, go, go. You have to replace the flluid by drinking more water—duh. Or you could get dehydrated, double duh.

    If you do not take one of these products, your colon will not be clean & well washed—so the Dr. will not get a clear view of the lining of the bowel, to see how much disease there is, how bad the lesions are, etc.

    Sorry to be so graphic but there is a reason this stuff was invented. The people who really are sick need to be able to prep their guts for the necessary exam.

    As with all medications, proper use does not give problems, and improper use or abuse (such as for foolish “purging” by people who do not have any disease) can injure you, even seriously. If you take too many barbiturates, you will sleep for a long long time, too. If you gobble aspirin, you will wreck your stomach, and if you overdose on acetominophen, you will need a liver transplant.

    Let’s have some common sense and use meds only for their intended purpose, and according to directions.

    And Deborah, did you ever have any children? Did you have to push hard when delivering? Are you in menopause? Urinary incontinence is extremely common in women who have given birth and reached middle age or older. It has nothing to do with having used Fleet or having a colonoscopy. It does have to do with damage sustained “back in the day.” Welcome to the club.

  3. My doctor told me he does not want to use fleet anymore because of the risks of kidney damage. And he gave me a prescription for go litely. I am afraid it is not safe either and I am trying to find an alternative to go litely as a colonoscopy prep. It has propylene glycol as one of its ingredients. That’s a main ingredient in anti-freeze. And anti freeze has been used by people commiting suicide (one case is making headlines in England because a young woman used a living will to prevent a hospital from reviving her after using anti-freeze); the way anti-freeze works is by causing kidney failure at the very least and death in 95-99% of the cases according to the article I read. Anyone knows of something truly safe to use as a prep for a colonoscopy?

  4. Different out-come, but worth noting. I prepared for a colonoscopy using Golytely on 6/29/09. That evening I suffered a heart attack and was totally unconscious and on life support for 3 days. They brought me back from death 4 times. No where on the label does it state that someone my age (63) could possibly have serious repercussions to this medicine if they have an unknown problem, such as a heart vessel that is 75% blocked.

  5. There is nothing wrong with the proper use of Fleet PhosphoSoda as a prep for a colonoscopy! The problem has arrisen by people repeatedly using it improperly as a cleansing agent. I have used Fleet twice and my wife once for prep for colonoscopies with no problems and at minimal cost; appx $6.00. My wife recently prepped for her second colonoscopy with a scipt for Moviprep (which costs $60.00) and came with a mail-in coupon from the Dr. for a $20.00. This seems to me to be an unreasonable cost for a prep material and further leads me to question what incentive is being given the Drs. for “pushing” Moviprep! The Moviprep is a far less user friendly substitute for the Fleet product for us. This is a prime example of what’s so wrong with our medical system, when it takes a $60.00 item to replace a $6.00 item that works fine when used properly and no ABUSED ! Let’s see how much more it costs for Fleet when the script requirment is added by the FDA.

  6. Deborah J. says:

    I completely agree with John and Mary. Just because people can’t read directions I must suffer. I have ulcerative colitis and so usually do a colonoscopy every year. But my doc gave me a pass last year and so I didn’t realizie til now that phospho Soda was taken off the shelf. Had I known I would have stocked up and just kept in the refrigerator. I CANNOT drink the half gallon of gag juice, and swore I would never have another colonoscopy if that – or any other gag juice – was the only alternative. I understand you can do a Miralax prep, its still a lot of liquid but without the gag taste. But, it too is “antifreeze”. Does anyone have a hidden stock of Phospho ?? I would pay dearly for some.

  7. Anne:

    Polyethylene glycol, used in laxatives, is not the same as Ethylene glycol, the toxic anti-freeze that kills kids and pets. Polyethylene glycol may or may not be safe, but it is not acutely poisonous.

  8. Up until 2008, I had to either drink the disgusting gallon thing, or Fleet. I suffer Ulcerative Colitis. The last colonoscopy, the Dr. told me to drink Miralax. He also added correctol. Which was a great alternative to both Fleet and Golytely. I had a C-sec with my one child. So I didn’t “push,” as Mary commented. I also have had many bladder infections-all under age 40. Lately, I have incontinence from time to time. My first colonscopy was in 1996. And I had to drink Fleet for some of my colonoscopies between then and now. I drank water. I followed the instructions. To me the miralax seemed better. It doesn’t taste bad.

  9. I had two colonoscopies while in the USAF and used this Fleet stuff prior to the procedures both times. Now five years later, my lab results indicate a 25% loss in kidney function which is abnormal for a 42 year old man. I’m told by my nephrologist that he feels the CKD is related to the anti-inflammatory meds also prescribed for my degenerative osteoarthritis in my hands and elbows. I never told him about taking Fleet as I never knew it was dangerous to healthy kidneys. I’m waiting for word from him now whether the Fleet was an attributor to the CKD or not.

  10. I am scheduled for my second colonoscopy next week and am thoroughly disgusted with the cost of the prep. Last time I used Fleet – everything was fine, taste was not bad when used with Sierra Mist, and the cost was minimal. It is utterly ridiculous to have to spend $65. for MoviPrep or $90. for OsmoPrep. It is just another way for the doctors to make money – the drug company reps court them and their staff with meals so they will use that drug company’s products and then the doctor gets a kickback. The drug companies are making a killing by bilking the public with this kind of nonsense.

  11. I took fleet before a colonoscopy in 2008. I have had distal ulcerative colitis for 23 years. I am a 46 year old female and have always been healthy and sporty apart from the UC.
    In November 2009 I was diagnosed with kidney cancer by accident when being treated for a femoral hernia. I had to have my right kidney removed immediately.
    46 year old “fit” females don’t get kidney cancer.

  12. I work for a Gastroenterologist. We do not get any money or lunches from the drug reps! We loved the fleets because it was the least amount you would have to drink for the bowel prep and the best price. You have to drink alot of clear liquids with any bowel prep to keep you hydrated. We do not use the Osmo Prep because you have to drink so much liquids and the patients do not follow directions well.

  13. My mom used the MoviPrep and her kidneys are now damaged. She goes to dialysis weekly and hates it. According to her doctor they were crystalized by the MoviPrep.

  14. I used the phospha soda for my first colonoscopy. We all know what the prep is about, it was what it was. I was inconvienced by the running to the john, but there was no physical discomfort or pain. The next day, the proceedure went according to plan. For my second colonoscopy,3 years later, the phospha soda was no longer available and I had to use an alternative method of prepping. I followed the directions to a TEE ! I know my doctor was PO’d because even I could tell (heavily medicated but watching the screen) that my colon was not as cleaned out as it had been the first time. My next colonoscopy is coming up and I really do not feeling like going thru all the inconvenience of the prep if it is not going to really prep me for the proceedure!

  15. just found out my “prep” is $86 with “coupon”…cannot afford this. on ss. will call dr and cancel if less expensive prep cannot be used.

  16. Phosphosoda is available in a generic version.

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