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What Is Balsalazide Disodium?

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  • Written By: Clara Kedrek
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Balsalazide disodium is a pharmaceutical agent most commonly prescribed to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The medication works because it contains 5-acetylsalacylic acid, a substance that decreases the inflammation caused by the disease process. Common side effects of the medication include headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and joint pains.

The active ingredient in balsalazide disodium is a substance called 5-acetylsalacylic acid (5-ASA). This substance has important anti-inflammatory effects in the gastrointestinal tract, and helps decrease the symptoms and progression of the inflammatory bowel diseases of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In balsalazide disodium, the 5-ASA is bound to an inactive substance called aminobenzoyl-alanine. The body digests this compound in such a way that the active ingredient 5-ASA is released in the colon, which is the site where IBD often has the most severe effects.

Typically, patients prescribed balsalazide disodium need to take between 6 and 9 grams of the medication daily in order to obtain the proper clinical effect. This total daily dose is often split into the three doses, so patients often take three pills three times a day for a total of nine pills per day. The medication goes by the trade name Colazal®.

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While balsalazide disodium could be used to treat any form of IBD, it is most commonly used to treat ulcerative colitis. Balsalazide and other medications including the active ingredient 5-ASA are often first-line treatments for this condition. They are effective because they act directly on the wall of the colon, the location where the disease process is the most active. Often the drugs are not significantly absorbed in the bloodstream, which is beneficial because they can cause fewer systemic side effects compared to other ulcerative colitis treatments.

Common side effects of balsalazide disodium include headache, abdominal pain, insomnia, fatigue, diarrhea, muscle pain, and body aches. Some patients are allergic to parts of the medication, and could develop difficulty breathing after taking the medication. In some people the drug can be toxic to the liver, causing dysfunction of this organ.

Although typically balsalazide disodium is fairly well tolerated, not all patients are good candidates for treatment with this medication. Patients allergic to salicylates, which is the class of drugs that 5-ASA belongs to, should avoid the medication. If patients are sick with chicken pox, influenza, or other viral infections, they should avoid taking this medication. In addition, people who suffer from decreased kidney function might need to take a decreased dose of this medication to prevent the development of serious side effects.

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