Public Release: 

New study documents burden of irritable bowel syndrome for U.S. sufferers

American College of Gastroenterology

Seattle, WA (October 21, 2002) - Results of a survey of patients with irritable bowel syndrome in the United States presented at the 67th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology reveal a substantial burden on patients, including decreased quality of life, high out-of-pocket costs, and losses in productivity among other findings.

IBS is a cluster of symptoms consisting commonly of abdominal pain, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. Some IBS patients experience alternating diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a functional disorder of the intestine. There is no sign of the disease that can be seen or measured, but the intestine is not functioning normally. It is common, occurring in about one in five Americans, more commonly in women. It usually begins in late adolescence or early adult life and rarely appears for the first time after the age of 50.

A survey mailed to 1,340 members of a national patient advocacy organization representing those with irritable bowel syndrome resulted in 657 responses. The survey, developed by Mugdha Gore, Ph.D. of Avalon Health Solutions on behalf of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, solicited information on patient demographics, disease history, symptom frequency and bothersomeness, health care utilization, medication use, out-of-pocket expenses, and impact of symptoms upon productivity and functioning.

Of the respondents, 65% met accepted criteria for IBS (Rome II). Of these, 95% were white, 79% female, and 58 % single. Their mean age was 54 and mean age at IBS diagnosis was 41 years. Among those with IBS, 99% experienced one or more GI symptom during the past 3 months, and two-thirds of IBS patients experienced 10 to 24 GI symptoms during this time.

Almost all (97%) had two or more consults with a health care professional for their GI disorder in the last three months, and 75% reported had four or more consults (visits and telephone calls.)

The use of multiple over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications and alternative therapies was common: 89% reported taking at least 3 three therapies (1 Rx, 1 OTC and 1 alternative.) Over 40% reported taking two or more of each Rx (57%), OTC (47%) and alternative therapies (43%.) Patients spent an average of $258 for their GI disorder during the past three months, according to the survey findings.

Of IBS patients who work, 39% reported missing work and decreased productivity an average of 6 days and 16 days respectively, and decreased productivity at home an average of 16 days in the last three months. Ninety percent reported limited ability to perform important daily activities due to their GI disorder.

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The ACG was formed in 1932 to advance the scientific study and medical treatment of disorders of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The College promotes the highest standards in medical education and is guided by its commitment to meeting the needs of clinical gastroenterology practitioners. Consumers can get more information on GI diseases through the following ACG-sponsored programs:

  • 1-800-978-7666 (free brochures on common GI disorders, including ulcer, colon cancer, gallstones, and liver disease)
  • 1-800-HRT-BURN (free brochure and video on heartburn and GERD)
  • www.acg.gi.org (ACG's Web site)

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