Objective: In November 2000, alosetron HCl (Lotronex), a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), was removed from the U.S. market in part because of the occurrence of colon ischemia in treated patients. Since the relation between colon ischemia and IBS is poorly understood, we evaluated the incidence of colon ischemia among people with and without IBS.
Methods: Using medical claims data from a large health care organization in the United States, we identified 87,449 people with an IBS diagnosis between January 1995 and December 1999. We calculated age- and sex-specific incidence rates in the general population and in IBS patients.
Results: There were 740 cases of colon ischemia during 8.5 million person-years of observation in 5.4 million persons. The crude incidence rate was 42.8 cases per 100,000 person-years for IBS patients. By comparison, the incidence rate was 7.2 per 100,000 person-years in the general population. After adjustment for age, sex, and calendar year, the incidence of colon ischemia in people with IBS was 3.4 times higher than in persons without (95% CI 2.6-4.5).
Conclusions: Rates of colon ischemia among patients carrying a diagnosis of IBS are substantially higher than in the general population. Colon ischemia, though unusual in IBS patients, may nonetheless constitute a distinct part of the IBS natural history. Alternatively, it may be a consequence of therapy, or a manifestation of other bowel pathology that is sometimes confused with IBS.