An Antibiotic for IBS

An Antibiotic for IBS?


A much-awaited potential treatment developed at Cedars-Sinai shows promise of long-lasting relief for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) sufferers. It uses the drug rifaximin, an oral antibiotic that is minimally absorbed, and therefore remains in the intestines to overcome abdominal pain and other symptoms even after a patient stops taking it.

IBS is a debilitating and difficult to treat disorder of the intestinal tract that affects up to 20 percent of the population, making it one of the most commonly diagnosed disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Patients in a large clinical trial conducted at Cedars-Sinai reported less abdominal pain, and relief from bloating and other IBS symptoms, for up to 10 weeks. The findings show that targeted antibiotics can provide safe and enduring relief for a certain form of the condition, according to Mark Pimentel, MD, Gastrointestinal Motility Program director Associate Professor of Medicine and principal investigator of the clinical trial.

Previous treatments for IBS tended to focus on relieving symptoms with medications that either slow or speed up the digestive process. No new medication has been available to IBS sufferers in a decade.

“IBS often does not respond well to treatments currently available, such as dietary changes and fiber supplements alone,” says Dr. Pimentel.

However, whenever bacteria are at the root of a health problem, antibiotics can help. “With this antibiotic, the patients feel better, and they continue to feel better after stopping the treatment.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the study’s results. Currently, rifaximin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating travelers’ diarrhea. FDA approval for its use in the treatment of IBS is pending.

Rifaximin is marketed by Salix Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Salix also provided funding for the studies. Dr. Pimentel discovered the use of rifaximin for IBS, and Cedars-Sinai holds patent rights to this discovery and has licensed rights to the invention to Salix. Dr. Pimentel is a consultant to Salix and serves on its scientific advisory board.

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