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Experimental drug speeds digestive system recovery after abdominal surgery, study finds

BOSTON (AP) _ A pill that blocks the ill effects of painkillers on the digestive system could speed recovery following abdominal surgery, allowing patients to be discharged earlier.

A study found patients who got the experimental drug, code-named ADL 8-2698, left the hospital about a day sooner than usual and had fewer unpleasant symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.

Typically following abdominal surgery, the digestive tract shuts down for two or three days. This condition is aggravated by morphine and other opium-based painkillers.

ADL 8-2698 works by blocking the effects of painkillers in the colon but not other parts of the body. Since it is not absorbed into the brain, the narcotic drugs still relieve pain during recovery.

A study of the new medicine was conducted by Dr. Akiko Taguchi and others from Washington University in St. Louis. It was published in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study was partially financed by Adolor Corp. of Exton, Pa., which is developing the drug.

The experiment was conducted on 79 patients undergoing hysterectomy or partial removal of the colon. They were randomly assigned to get ADL 8-2698 or dummy pills.

Bowel function returned in an average of three days in those getting the drug, compared with 4 1/2 days in the comparison group.

In a journal editorial, Dr. Richard A. Steinbrook of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center said a one-day reduction in hospital stays after abdominal surgery ``would have substantial clinical and financial benefits.''
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