Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and altered bowel function. In designing studies to evaluate new treatments for this disease, however, it is difficult to select appropriate endpoints to reflect improvement in the range of symptoms of the syndrome. In the present study we evaluated the parameter of adequate relief of abdominal pain and discomfort, as perceived by the patients, as a key endpoint for efficacy in the treatment of patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Abdominal pain and bowel function data were collected daily from 370 patients with the disease during treatment with placebo or a novel potent 5HT3 receptor antagonist. Once every 7 days adequate relief of pain and discomfort was assessed. Quality-of-life data were collected using self-administered questionnaires. The endpoint of adequate relief was significantly (P < 0.05) correlated with improvement in pain severity scores, percentage of pain-free days, percentage of days with urgency, improvement in stool frequency and consistency, and quality-of-life parameters. Adequate relief of pain and discomfort is significantly correlated with changes in multiple parameters associated with irritable bowel syndrome and can be used as an endpoint for assessing response to therapy in these patients.