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Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often try multiple medications, both prescription and OTC, in an attempt to alleviate their symptoms. Many of these therapies, however, have not been examined in large clinical trials involving patients with IBS. Therefore, the frequency and severity of the side effects associated with their use are unknown.
In the October 2004 issue of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, Anthony Lembo, MD, reported the results of a survey given to an on-line panel of patients with physician- diagnosed IBS. The survey examined the incidence and severity of side effects associated with traditional IBS medications, as well as patient satisfaction with these medications. Results showed that patients with IBS with constipation (IBS-C; 504 of 668) had tried an average of 3.9 + 3.3 medications (fiber, OTC and/or prescription laxatives) for their IBS-C symptoms; nearly all patients (99%) reported that they had tried at least 1 medication. These patients reported having experienced an average of 3.3 + 2.7 side effects, and nearly three quarters reported having discontinued treatment because of side effects.
The author concluded that traditional therapies for IBS-C are associated with side effects that have a negative effect on patient quality of life.