Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder of the brain-gut axis; the pathophysiological mechanisms include altered colonic motility, bile acid metabolism, neurohormonal regulation, immune dysfunction, alterations in the epithelial barrier and secretory properties of the gut. This article reviews the mechanisms, efficacy, and safety of current pharmacotherapy, and medications that are in phase III trials for the treatment of IBS. There remains a significant unmet need for effective treatments—particularly for the pain component of IBS—although the introduction of drugs directed at secretion, motility and a non-absorbable antibiotic provide options for the bowel dysfunction in IBS.
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