Women with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may benefit from using Lotronex. This drug is reserved for use in those who have had IBS symptoms for six months and have not had relief with other forms of treatment. Specifically, Lotronex is only prescribed to treat IBS in women whose main symptom is diarrhea. This drug is only approved for use in adults.
What Is Lotronex Used For?
Lotronex® (alosetron hydrochloride) is a prescription medication approved to treat women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is not a cure for IBS, but can help reduce symptoms in certain people. Because it has been associated with dangerous intestinal problems, Lotronex is reserved for use in women whose main IBS symptom is diarrhea and whose symptoms:
- Are severe
- Have continued for a long period of time, generally at least six months
- Have not been adequately helped by other treatments
- Are not caused by another medical problem.
A woman is considered to have severe symptoms of IBS with diarrhea if she has at least one of the following:
- Frequent painful abdominal (stomach) discomfort, cramps, or bloating
- An inability to control the urgency of bowel movements, or frequent "accidents" involving leakage of diarrhea or loose stool
- Difficulty leading a normal life at home or work because she has to be near a bathroom.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that causes frequent symptoms in the abdomen (stomach) and intestines. Although the symptoms of IBS can be quite uncomfortable, and may be severe enough to interfere with a person's daily activities, they do not cause long-term damage to the stomach or intestines. IBS also does not increase the risk for developing other problems of the GI tract, such as cancer.
The most common symptoms of IBS include abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping and changes in bowel habits (see Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms). While some people with IBS experience alternating diarrhea and constipation, many people will have either diarrhea or constipation as their main symptom.
There are several different treatments available for IBS, including diet, stress management, and medications. Many people find that certain foods worsen their symptoms and can, therefore, help manage the condition by limiting or avoiding these foods (see Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet).
Stress is also thought to increase IBS symptoms in some people. In such cases, stress management techniques may be able to provide relief (see Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Stress).
In addition to dietary changes and stress reduction, some people with IBS are treated with medications. However, unlike many other chronic conditions, medications are not always prescribed for the treatment IBS. Medications may be used if IBS symptoms are severe, interfere with a person's daily activities, and are not adequately controlled by lifestyle changes alone. The specific medication a healthcare provider recommends will depend on whether a person's most bothersome symptom is diarrhea or constipation.
Lotronex is only approved to treat IBS in women whose main symptom is diarrhea. This type of IBS is commonly referred to as diarrhea-predominant IBS or IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D). The medication should not be used in people whose main symptom is constipation, or in those who are currently constipated.
In fact, Lotronex has been reported to cause serious intestinal problems due to constipation. Although these problems occur infrequently, they can be severe enough to lead to a hospital stay, surgery, blood transfusion, or even death. Because of these risks, the medication was taken off the market in November 2000. However, for some people, Lotronex was the only medication that adequately helped ease their symptoms. As a result, Lotronex was made available again, but only through a restricted-use program.
Lotronex will not help everyone. The goal of the restricted-use program is to ensure that only people who will likely benefit from the use of Lotronex, and in whom the benefits outweigh the risks, will be treated with the medication. Healthcare providers must enroll in a special program to be able to prescribe Lotronex.
To enroll in the special program, healthcare providers must understand the risks and benefits of Lotronex treatment, and agree to describe these risks and benefits to people when recommending treatment. In addition, anyone who takes Lotronex must sign an agreement form indicating they understand the risks and benefits of using Lotronex.