Basic and clinical pharmacology of new motility promoting agents


James J. Galligan, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Life Science B440, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA.
Tel: 517-353-4776; fax: 517-353-8915; e-mail:


Abstract  Recent research has provided new information about drugs that could be used to treat functional motility disorders. Promotility drugs accelerate gastric emptying or colonic transit and these properties may contribute to their efficacy in treating symptoms associated with gastroparesis, functional dyspepsia or constipation. 5-Hydroxytryptamine4 receptors are targets for drugs (tegaserod, renzapride) that treat symptoms in constipated irritable bowel syndrome patients and in gastroparesis. Drugs acting at motilin (erythromycin) and cholecystokinin-1 (dexloxiglumide) receptors accelerate gastric emptying. Dexloxiglumide might be useful in the treatment of functional dyspepsia particularly that associated with lipid intake. Alvimopan is a μ-opioid receptor antagonist that does not cross the blood brain barrier. Alvimopan is effective in treating postsurgical ileus and perhaps opiate-induced bowel dysfunction. Successes and failures of recent efforts to develop promotility agents revealed opportunities and challenges for developing new promotility drugs. The pharmacological properties of partial agonists might be exploited to develop effective promotility drugs. However, opposing actions of promotility agents on motility (increased contraction vs decreased accommodation) limit the clinical efficacy of drugs with these opposing actions. Selection of appropriate patient populations for evaluation of new drugs is also critical.