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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (cont.)

Medications

  • Antispasmodic medicines, such as dicyclomine (Bemote, Bentyl, Di-Spaz) and hyoscyamine (Levsin, Levbid, NuLev), are sometimes used to treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Antispasmodic medicines help slow the action of the digestive tract and reduce the chance of spasms. They may have side effects and are not for everyone. Other treatment plans are available, depending on symptoms and condition.

  • Antidiarrheal medicines, such as loperamide (Imodium), a kaolin/pectin preparation (Kaopectate), and diphenoxylate/atropine (Lomotil), are sometimes used when diarrhea is a major feature of IBS. Do not take these on a long-term basis without first consulting a doctor.

  • Antidepressants may be very effective in smaller doses than those typically used to treat depression. Imipramine (Tofranil), amitriptyline (Elavil), nortriptyline (Pamelor), and desipramine (Norpramin) are some commonly used medicines that may alleviate irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Some other antidepressants are more commonly prescribed when depression and IBS coexist.

  • The following medications are typically reserved for patients with symptoms that do not improve with the above treatments:
    • Lubiprostone (Amitiza) is a type of laxative used to treat irritable bowel syndrome with constipation in women who are at least 18 years of age. It is a capsule taken orally, twice a day with food. It is used to relieve stomach pain, bloating, and straining; and produce softer and more frequent bowel movements in people who have chronic idiopathic constipation.

    • Alosetron (Lotronex) is a restricted drug approved only for short-term treatment of women with severe, chronic, diarrhea-predominant IBS who have failed to respond to conventional IBS therapy. Fewer than 5% of people with irritable bowel syndrome have the severe form, and only a fraction of people with severe IBS have the diarrhea-predominant type. Alosetron was removed from the United States market but was reintroduced with new restrictions approved by the FDA in 2002. Physicians must be registered with the pharmaceutical manufacturer in order to prescribe the medication. Serious and unpredictable gastrointestinal side effects (including some that resulted in death) were reported in association with its use following its original approval. The safety and efficacy of alosetron has not been sufficiently studied in men; therefore, the FDA has not approved the drug for treatment of IBS in men.

    • Tegaserod (Zelnorm) was a medication used to treat IBS but was removed from the market in 2008 due to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and ischemic colitis.
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Irritable Bowel Disease »

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional GI disorder characterized by abdominal pain and altered bowel habits in the absence of specific and unique organic pathology.

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