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How Effective Is Rifaximin for IBS?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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In a study reported by the New England Journal of Medicine, Rifaximin was effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome(IBS) symptoms in 40.7% of patients who used the drug. These effects seemed to last for several weeks after the medication was discontinued. Up to 30% of patients received similar results when using a placebo.

Rifaximin is an antibiotic that is used to treat a variety of infections. It was discovered that it may be linked to a reduction in IBS symptoms when patients who had taken the drug reported relief from the symptoms commonly related to irritable bowel syndrome. These can include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. Further studies were then conducted to find if there was a true link.

Based on studies, using Rifaximin for IBS may be effective at relieving many symptoms associated with the condition. Continued research is needed to determine if there is a strong enough link to warrant prescribing this medication to IBS sufferers. Studies may also be used to determine why using Rifaximin works in the first place, so that additional drugs can be developed which are more targeted to irritable bowel syndrome.

Because of the studies performed so far, it is believed that irritable bowel syndrome may be caused by an imbalance of certain bacteria found in the stomach and intestines. Rifaximin does not absorb very well into the bloodstream, so it stays primarily in the digestive tract. It can linger in the body for up to ten weeks after treatment has ceased. This may explain way the patients studied felt relief for many weeks after stopping the medication. It may also mean that using Rifaximin or a similar drug for IBS would work better than medications which do not stay within the digestive tract itself.

Despite these links, the use of Rifaximin for IBS symptoms has not yet been approved. More research is needed to determine the long-term effectiveness and safety of such a regimen since this drug is typically used on a short-term basis. Additionally, long-term use of antibiotics may also kill off beneficial bacteria found in the intestines which can lead to further health problems in some cases.

Patients who suffer from IBS are generally encouraged to watch their diets and avoid foods that trigger symptoms. They may also be told to take probiotic supplements which are meant to supply a large dose of healthy bacteria into the intestines. Many patients find relief through these methods, although some continue to have symptoms.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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