The effect of sulphasalazine and olsalazine on jejunal and ileal water and electrolyte absorption was investigated in normal subjects by a steady state intestinal perfusion of a physiological glucose bicarbonate electrolyte solution in the absence and presence of increasing concentrations of each drug. (Olsalazine 0.25 g/l, 1.0 g/l, jejunum; 0.5 g/l, 1.0 g/l, ileum; sulphasalazine 0.25 g/l, 0.5 g/l, 2.0 g/l jejunum; 1.0 g/l, 2.0 g/l, ileum.) In the jejunum olsalazine at 1.0 g/l significantly inhibited water, sodium, chloride, and potassium absorption (p less than 0.05). In the ileum olsalazine at 0.5 and 1 g/l significantly inhibited glucose uptake (p less than 0.04) and water absorption (p less than 0.03). In the jejunum sulphasalazine had a dose related and significant inhibitory effect on water, bicarbonate, and sodium absorption and at 2.0 g/l an inhibitory effect on chloride, potassium (p less than 0.005), and glucose (p less than 0.05) absorption. In the ileum sulphasalazine had no significant effect on water and electrolyte absorption. All inhibitory effects were rapidly reversible. These data show that unexplained diarrhoea in patients with ulcerative colitis treated with olsalazine may occur as a consequence of inhibition of water and electrolyte absorption in the small intestine and that the mechanisms of inhibition of sulphasalazine and olsalazine are different.
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