An estimated 30 million people suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. IBS can cause constant pain and abdominal bloating.
Effective treatments for IBS have been hit or miss, possibly until now. A new drug called Rifaximin may provide a cure.
Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found the drug targets an overgrowth of bacteria in the gut, thought to be one of the causes of some forms of IBS.
Two new large studies from Cedars-Sinai confirmed that theory.
"We are touching a cause of IBS. And that's the first time. We've never really had a drug that truly treats a potential cause of IBS," said Dr. Mark Pimentel.
Dr. Pimentel led the latest research. He says all symptoms greatly improved for nearly half of the patients who took the drug for 2 weeks in the studies.
That relief lasted for at least three months - something not seen with other drugs.
He said it could be useful for the 70 percent of IBS patients suffering from diarrhea, not constipation.
"We're talking about a 2-week therapy, not an indefinite therapy," said Dr. Pimentel.
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved Rifaximin to treat IBS, even though some doctors have been prescribing it off-label. Approval could come this year.