Polyethylene glycol is a chemical with various uses in the medical field. It can be used as a matrix for the production of specific medicines, helps deliver medicines, and is an agent used in some medical procedures. Polyethylene glycol is a variable-size hydrocarbon molecule, and different sizes have different natural properties, making this compound flexible for applications.
One form of this compound, called polyethylene glycol 3350, can help treat constipation. It is a powder that can be taken orally with water. Once inside the gut, this compound absorbs water from the environment into the stool, making bowel movements easier. Like many laxatives, this compound is generally only used to treat occasional constipation and is not suitable for long-term use.
Some protein-based medicines are sometimes mixed with polyethylene glycol. This mix allows the drug to remain in the blood longer for increased potency. This can reduce the frequency of medication use and reduce unwanted side effects. Protein drugs mixed with polyethylene glycol include interferons for the treatment of hepatitis, and filgrastim.
Results from animal studies look like polyethylene glycol may also play a role in preventing cancer. Studies involving rodents have confirmed its protection against carcinogens. In addition, the compound can also access tumors through blood vessels. This property makes polyethylene glycol somewhat effective in controlling tumor growth, especially when traditional imaging chemistries are inaccessible.
Because of its important role in pharmaceuticals, polyethylene glycol is widely used. It can be added to eye drops to lubricate the eyes and make the drug more acceptable to the eyes. In addition, some capsules and oral drugs also use this compound as an inactive ingredient to form the external structure of the drug.