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Am J Manag Care. 2001 Jul;7(8 Suppl):S261-7.

Drug therapy options for patients with irritable bowel syndrome.


Existing pharmacotherapeutic options for the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are limited in treating the multiple symptoms associated with the disorder. There is much interest in the use of serotonin agents as new therapeutics. Acting primarily through 5-HT3 and 5-HT4 receptors, serotonin elicits changes in motor function and possibly visceral sensation. Two serotonin agents were developed specifically for IBS: tegaserod, a 5-HT4 receptor partial agonist, and alosetron, a 5-HT3 receptor antagonist (which is no longer available). Phase III clinical trial data show that during a 12-week treatment period with tegaserod, IBS patients with abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, and constipation experienced significant global relief (i.e., improvement in overall well-being, abdominal pain, and bowel habit) compared with placebo. Improvement in bowel movement frequency and consistency was achieved and pain was relieved by 1 week. During 12 weeks of treatment, alosetron was shown to elicit significant relief of abdominal pain and discomfort compared with placebo or mebeverine in female IBS patients with diarrhea. Alosetron slowed colonic transit and treatment efficacy was apparent after a week of treatment. Another 5-HT4 receptor agonist, prucalopride, which is being developed for chronic constipation, accelerates colonic transit and increases stool frequency. Therefore, this agent may be of benefit in IBS patients with constipation.

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