Two-week course of antibiotic may benefit patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)

In the category of a study that will change my practice in the area of giving patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) another treatment option, is a study discussed in a Los Angeles Times report that says, “A two-week treatment with an antibiotic” manufactured by Salix Pharmaceuticals “can ease overall symptoms in many patients with irritable bowel syndrome for at least 10 weeks and perhaps for much longer, according to a pair of clinical trials of more than 1,200 patients.”

The paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the “proportion of patients who benefited — about 11% — was modest, but the fact that any at all were helped validated the idea that intestinal bacteria play a role in the onset of irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS.”

Lead study author Dr. Mark Pimentel, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, added, “This is the culmination of a 10-year journey in proving that gut bacteria are a cause of IBS.” Before, “there has been a lot of skepticism, a lot of criticism.”

Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer (1/5, Avery), “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.” He added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”
With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News (1/6, Ostrow) reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.” Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.” What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”

Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer, “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.”

The executive added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”

With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan (generic name = rifaximin) three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.”

Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.”

What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”

So, if you suffer from IBS and few or no treatments have been helpful, then you may want to discuss this one with your physician. However, be warned, the two week treatment could cost several hundred dollars!

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