New IBS Drug Eases Stomach Pain, Diarrhea for Some
But Viberzi is not a 'silver bullet,' digestive-disease doctor says
By Steven Reinberg
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A new drug for irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea seems to reduce symptoms for some patients for at least six months, two clinical trials found.
Based on these findings, the drug Viberzi (eluxadoline) was approved recently by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In the phase 3 trials, more than 30 percent of patients experienced improvement in their symptoms at least half of the time they were taking the drug. This compared to about a 20 percent improvement in those taking a placebo, the study authors 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," said lead researcher Dr. Anthony Lembo, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
This drug, taken twice daily, should only be used for IBS with diarrhea as the predominant symptom, not for those whose main symptom is constipation. The drug treats the diarrhea and reduces stomach pain, Lembo said.
However, Dr. Arun Swaminath, director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, "Viberzi is not a silver bullet."
The drug helps only about one-third of patients, Swaminath said. "And if you look at the difference between the placebo group and the group taking the drug, there is only a 10 percent benefit," he said.
That means 10 patients need to get the drug to find the one patient it will help, he explained.
Swaminath also said that those who benefit from the drug feel about 30 percent better on 50 percent of the days they take Viberzi. "So this is hardly going from feeling abnormal to completely normal," he added.
Results from the trials were published in the Jan. 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Funding for the studies was provided by Furiex Pharmaceuticals, maker of the drug.
Irritable bowel syndrome causes pain or discomfort in the abdomen and changes in bowel movement patterns. IBS affects 10 percent to 15 percent of adults in the United States, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.