FDA Approves Second Drug, First Pill Made From Human Poop

Vowst could help treat a potentially fatal infection

A bottle of pills spilling onto a counter. The FDA recently approved a second drug and the first pill made from human poop.
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Towfiqu Barbhuiya/Unsplash

Have you ever thought about where the medicine that you take comes from? Essential medication has come from origins as disparate as bark and mold, and now, a newly approved drug has an even more humble origin. Here’s a hint: your body produces it every day, and it’s likely that you can’t wait to flush it away from you as fast as you can.

On April 26, the Food and Drug Administration approved Vowst, which is used to prevent the recurrence of Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI). According to the CDC, CDI can cause colitis and diarrhea. Vowst can be useful for preventing this, and it’s all down to its secret ingredient: human poop.

That said, not just any fecal matter can do the job. As a recent Live Science article by Nicoletta Lanese explains, Vowst “essentially [replenishes] the gut microbiome.” This, in turn, makes the patient less likely to develop a recurring infection with Clostridioides difficile. The FDA notes that recurrent infections like this are responsible for 15,000 to 30,000 deaths each year. The idea of a pill made from human poop might seem strange, but this is a treatment that could help save many lives — and with a similar treatment approved last year, it increases the options available to doctors.

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“The availability of a fecal microbiota product that can be taken orally is a significant step forward in advancing patient care and accessibility for individuals who have experienced this disease that can be potentially life-threatening,” said Peter Marks, the director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement.

There are still some areas of concern for Vowst. Since the drug is made from donated feces, there’s a chance that pathogens or allergens could be spread through the medication, according to the FDA. Nonetheless, it’s a big step forward for medicine — with roots in an unexpected place.

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