Results of a recent pilot study suggest that pregabalin, a neurologic pain inhibitor frequently used to treat fibromyalgia, may also be effective in the management of pain from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The study was conducted by a research team from the Mayo Clinic, and reported last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Las Vegas. To date, the available treatment options for pain from IBS have been of limited effectiveness. Anticholinergic agents such as hyoscine, cimetropium, pinaverium, and some peppermint oil preparations taken before meals may provide short-term reduction of abdominal pain after meals. Antidepressant medications can reduce the intensity of pain signaling from the gut to the brain. Relaxation therapy, hypnosis, and cognitive behavioral therapy may have some benefit in pain management, although the mechanisms of action remain unclear. In general, however, clinicians have agreed on the need for new and more effective treatments for IBS and associated pain. Study author Yuri Saito Loftus, MD, commented, “There currently are limited treatment options available to fight the abdominal pain associated with IBS. We theorized that pregabalin could potentially be helpful.”
The study examined 85 patients, aged 18 to 70 years, who reported significant abdominal pain from their IBS condition. Over a 12-week period, one cohort received pregabalin and another received placebo. The pregabalin group reported “significant improvement” in pain levels, compared to the placebo group. In addition, the treated group recorded improvements in other IBS symptoms, including bloating and diarrhea. Dr. Saito Loftus cautioned against the small size of the study group, noting that “Our study does provide preliminary evidence that pregabalin may be an additional treatment option for patients with IBS who have failed other treatment options, but more research is needed.”
A news report from the Mayo Clinic about the findings may be read here.