A new irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) drug offers relief from diarrhea and stomach pains but only for some patients. Two clinical trials of the drug revealed that symptoms of IBS were relieved for up to six months.
The new drug – Viberzi – was recently approved by the FDA and in phase three of the clinical trials only 30 percent of patients experienced relief from symptoms half of the time while taking the drug. The results were compared to 20 percent of patients who experienced relief from a placebo.
Lead researcher Dr. Anthony Lembo said, “This drug offers another option for patients who have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) with diarrhea who have not found relief with currently available treatment.”
The drug is intended to be taken twice daily only for those IBS patients with diarrhea as a main symptom, not for patients with constipation.
For the clinical trials nearly 2,500 IBS patients who had diarrhea took Viberzi one to two times a day while some patients took a placebo. The first trial patients took the drug for 26 weeks and the second trial they took it for 52 weeks.
By the 12th week 30 percent of patients began to experience relief and the result remained the same after the 26th week as well.
Mild side effects included nausea, constipation and abdominal pain which faded quite quickly. A more severe side effect was pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas. This was more common in patients with pre-existing pancreas problems and so Viberzi is not recommended for patients with existing pancreas problems.
Some experts feel they would only reserve Viberzi for extreme cases of IBS where diet, lifestyle factors and over the counter remedies have failed. As Dr. Arun Swaminath, director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital, concluded, “If patients have been on the standard medications and they didn’t work or they couldn’t tolerate the side effects, then we have a new option.”