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Fluoxetine reduces symptoms for selected patients with irritable bowel syndrome

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.331.7523.0-e (Published 27 October 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:0-e

Research question Is fluoxetine an effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome dominated by constipation and abdominal pain?

Answer Possibly. In one small trial a short course of fluoxetine 20 mg daily relieved symptoms better than placebo.

Why did the authors do the study? Irritable bowel syndrome is extremely common and notoriously hard to treat. Antidepressants including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are sometimes prescribed, although there is little evidence from randomised trials that they work. These authors wanted to find out, and they chose to test fluoxetine in patients with irritable bowel syndrome dominated by constipation and abdominal pain. Serotonergic neurotransmitters are thought to play a role in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome.

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