Fleet Recall: Alternatives to PhosphoSoda for Colonoscopy Prep

Harvey Kirk

By Harvey Kirk
Posted March 16, 2009


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.

25 Comments • Add Your Comments

  • deborah says:

    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.

    Posted on March 31, 2009 at 12:14 pm

  • Mary says:

    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.

    Posted on June 22, 2009 at 7:17 pm

  • Anne says:

    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?

    Posted on October 4, 2009 at 11:15 pm

  • Jerry says:

    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.

    Posted on November 5, 2009 at 2:04 pm

  • John says:

    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.

    Posted on November 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm

  • 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.

    Posted on November 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm

  • Sam says:


    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.

    Posted on November 30, 2009 at 5:56 pm

  • Gina says:

    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.

    Posted on February 5, 2010 at 6:24 pm

  • Mark says:

    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.

    Posted on February 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

  • Marilee says:

    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.

    Posted on April 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

  • Helen says:

    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.

    Posted on August 4, 2011 at 4:45 am

  • Kristie says:

    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.

    Posted on October 10, 2011 at 11:06 am

  • Shannon says:

    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.

    Posted on March 21, 2012 at 5:24 pm

  • erin says:

    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!

    Posted on September 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

  • jan says:

    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.

    Posted on March 22, 2014 at 9:16 pm

  • Maryann says:

    Phosphosoda is available in a generic version.

    Posted on December 10, 2014 at 6:09 pm

  • Jason says:

    I am searching for a replacement for Phoso Soda that actually WORKS ! Maryann, you say there is a generic version for Phospho Soda – What is it please?

    Posted on December 26, 2014 at 10:42 pm

  • Suzanne says:

    I too used Fleet about 10 years ago and it was easy to drink, not sick at all and everything went well.
    About 3 months ago I had to take the Polyethylene glycol (I believe called Myrolax) or something like that. I was sooooo sick. Could not finish it and have not had regular bowels since.. I didn’t have a problem before…it was just to be a routine check. I was so sick I was unable to take the test.
    My husband was admitted to the hospital and also two other women about 5 years ago from the same thing I just took. How they can keep giving this product is beyond me. My husband was and is a healthy man. He was early 60’s at the time he took it. We can never take that product again and there does not seem to be an alternative at our local pharmacies. Please get the Fleet product back for those of us it works so well on.

    Posted on September 18, 2015 at 12:31 am

  • Maryann says:

    CVS sells generic phosphosoda. Other pharmacies, such as Walgreen’s, may also sell it.

    Posted on March 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm

  • Lynetta says:

    My son has a rare kidney disease and needs the phospho soda. I can’t find it anywhere. Any suggestions?

    Posted on July 23, 2016 at 3:36 pm

  • Betty says:

    I am a dialysis RN. My job is to keep people in kidney failure alive. Our medical director advises the use of miralax. We also prescribe a product to clean the bowels called kayexelate that makes you go like gangbusters and so helps expel potassium; people without kidneys can’t excrete potassium and as you may or may not know, potassium overdose is the government’s choice for lethal injection, it stops the heart. Having said that, I needed a bowel prep and had some old Fleet in the cupboard. I’d never used it. It was FABULOUS. Painless, fast, effective as hell. I’d NEVER found anything, prescription or otherwise, that worked so beautifully. Just a shame about the recall. As stated above, one can OD on anything. Even water. I’ve seen a woman in acute respiratory failure from water intoxication. Not clear about the “double dosing” they say Fleet recommended. Bet ya those people that suffered ill took too much or didn’t drink enough water. Prudence states you start with the smallest dose, which I did. You can always add more but you can’t take it back. Or they had a pre-existing condition. There is no way to cover all the variables of biology.
    BTW, the drug reps absolutely DO hustle the doctors. They aren’t stupid. It’s called “education” for the staff and food (usually very lovely) is provided. They’ve gotten tighter about kickbacks but it’s naive to think it doesn’t happen.
    I’m not a fan of big pharm. that’s another blog.

    Posted on February 21, 2017 at 11:22 am

  • Lynn says:

    Prepping as I write for my procedure tomorrow. Took the first 8 ounces of MoviePrep and gagged before I got the cup to my mouth. Like others, I have Crohns. So the colonoscopies are frequent. Wish I could go back to using the Fleet Kit.

    Posted on April 30, 2017 at 1:31 pm

  • Sharon says:

    I had my first colonoscopy at 51. The recommended cleanse was fleet. I followed the directions, the cleanse worked in about 15 min. With in about an hour I started to vomit. That was about 7 in the evening. Every hour I was dry heaving and going to the bathroom and could not keep any liquid down. I was sweating and had the shakes. I felt like I had poisoned myself, and was having a very bad side affect. I was to drink more fleet at 8am before my test. Believe me I was scared to do that, but wanted a successful test and not have to do this again. I am 125 lbs and wondered if the dosage should be different for different weights. I had a physical last month and asked for copies of my results, my new doctor said everything looked good except my Albumin Urine was High and my Protein in urine was abnormal both to do with my kidneys. I will never know if damage was done at that time. I have alway been picture of health and my colonoscopy was clear of polyps

    Posted on August 21, 2018 at 3:22 pm

  • Alex says:

    These guys are idiots, they think they are so smart and work for FDA, some even physicians and they didnt know that all they had to do was to tell the users of phosphosoda to drink 1/2 to 1 full gallon of water after drinking the phosphosoda to maintain sufficient liquid and hydration for the kidneys and prevent the renal failure its COMMON SENSE and im not even a physician. Come on guys it has sodium and retains water/absorbs water from your body so obviously hydration is important with these products. I have used phosphosoda for 3 years every 6 months and never ever had an issue. Please bring it back to the market.

    Posted on December 2, 2019 at 8:46 pm

  • Tracey says:

    In 2008 I used the Fleet Prep and had a stroke under anesthesia. Right side numbness since then and still.

    Posted on June 23, 2021 at 10:25 pm

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