Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition with no known cause. It affects predominantly women. It is a syndrome of abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. A person is given this diagnosis when no other cause is found for the symptoms. In the past, there has been no effective treatment for IBS. In the late 1990's, GlaxoSmithKline introduced a medication called Lotronex for people with IBS and diarrhea. However, there were some serious possible side effects and this drug was voluntarily withdrawn from the market in 2000. Because of public outcry (the drug was extremely effective in many patients), it was re-approved in June 2002. There is now another medication on the market called Zelnorm made by Novartis which has advertised this on the television. This medication is for IBS with constipation. It appears to have a safe side-effect profile and has been shown safe for use up to 12 months. Another pharmaceutical company, Solvay, is now doing patient trials with one of their new IBS drugs and the results are promising.
So the good news is that several pharmaceutical companies are interested in IBS and have had some luck in developing drugs that work on the symptoms. This in turn will hopefully lead to some research into the causes of IBS.