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The Most Common IBS Medications — and How Much They Cost

December 9, 2020

high drug prices

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, is one of the most common afflictions in the Western world, with somewhere between 10 - 15% of the total population estimated to suffer from it at one time or another.

One of the reasons why IBS is so common is because it's something of a catch-all. IBS is typically used as a diagnosis when abdominal pain, digestive distress, or an abnormal pattern of bowel movements affects someone in the absence of anything being obviously physically wrong.

So, what causes IBS? Doctors aren't sure — although a number of theories have been put forward.

These include everything from motility disorders, gut-brain axis dysfunction, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), genetics, food sensitivities, infections, stress, other diseases, and many, many more. Ultimately, though, doctors haven't been able to pinpoint one specific cause.

The most common symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain or discomfort, diarrhea, constipation, an increase in urgency, increased flatulence, and bloating. It is not uncommon for those with IBS to have other digestive diseases, too — like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Likewise, IBS is frequently comorbid with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and psychiatric disorders.

This doesn't mean, however, that IBS is "all in your head." In fact, in 90% of patients, symptoms can be traced directly back to food intolerance. While that doesn't mean that IBS is necessarily caused by food intolerances, they do seem to be a common trigger.

Stress is theorized to be another common trigger of IBS. While not all IBS sufferers will experience flairs from stress, many seem to do so.

You'll notice a pattern here — scientists and doctors simply don't know what the root cause of IBS is, or even if there is a root cause at all. As we aren't doctors, we couldn't possibly get into all the theories about IBS here. Needless to say, though, the pathophysiology of IBS is something that is heavily studied.

The Types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable Bowel Syndrome can affect individuals differently. For this reason, IBS is typically broken down into IBS-C, IBS-D, IBS-M, and IBS-U.

IBS-C, or constipation-predominant IBS, is — as you can probably guess — mostly marked by constipation. IBS-D, or diarrhea-predominant IBS, is marked by bouts of diarrhea. IBS-M (or "mixed" IBS) is a combination of both, and IBS-U — or unsubtyped IBS — is marked by infrequent bowel issues. Typically, IBS-U is only diagnosed in children.

In all cases, intensity and severity of symptoms can wax and wane over time. Likewise, people with IBS-C will sometimes suffer from diarrhea, and some people with IBS-D will sometimes become constipated.

Generally, however, the type of IBS you have will determine how you treat it. Of course, this can be complicated, as we've mentioned multiple times — there isn't necessarily one root cause of IBS, so that makes it difficult to treat. Often, in addition to medication, doctors will suggest new diets, food journals, over-the-counter remedies, as well as therapy for those who are afflicted by stress.

Regardless, here are some common medications used to treat both IBS-C and IBS-D.

Common Medications Used to Treat IBS

Typically, your doctor will prescribe you an IBS medication depending on what sort of IBS you have. If your problem is constipation, you'll probably need a slightly different treatment over someone whose main issue is diarrhea.

Your doctor will know what the best is for you, depending on your particular situation.

Medications Used to Treat IBS-D

Dicyclomine (Bentyl) (Also known as Dicycloverine.)

Dicyclomine is an antispasmodic that is used to treat intestinal spasms. This makes it particularly useful for IBS sufferers who experience abdominal pain and diarrhea. Dicyclomine is very commonly used as a first-line treatment for those with IBS-D.

Dicyclomine is an old drug that has multiple generic versions. Because of this, it's fairly affordable. A typical 30-day, 10mg prescription will cost about $50.00 in the USA. At NorthWestPharmacy.com, however, you can order 100 10mg pills for $48.49.

Rifaximin (Xifaxan)

Rifaximin is an interesting drug in that it's actually an antibiotic. However, in addition to its antibacterial properties, it also has anti-inflammatory properties. It also isn't absorbed well within the gut, which means that it acts locally. This means that it's often effective at helping those with IBS-D feel better when they're experiencing ongoing symptoms.

Rifaximin is also used to treat travelers' diarrhea.

Rifaximin was only approved relatively recently in 2004. Unfortunately, as there are no generic alternatives, it is a fairly expensive drug. A full course of Rifaximin costs around $1,850.00.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic Antidepressants (or TCAs) are an old class of antidepressants that are commonly used for a number of disorders in addition to mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Many TCAs are used for conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and IBS.

You might wonder why an antidepressant is used for IBS. This is actually due to some of the common side effects that TCAs have. TCAs act on serotonin and norepinephrine in such a way that they slow down gut motility. While this usually presents itself as a negative side effect in patients, for those with IBS-D, this can be beneficial.

There are numerous TCAs that are used to treat IBS. However, one of the most common drugs is Elavil.

Amitriptyline (Elavil) is only available as a generic drug, and is relatively affordable. A 30-day supply of 25mg tablets costs around $10.00, at around $0.33/pill. From NorthWestPharmacy.com, you can order 84 pills at 25mg for $22.19, which comes out to around $0.26/pill.

Medications Used to Treat IBS-C

Linaclotide (Linzess, Constella)

Linzess is used primarily to treat IBS-C along with chronic constipation. Linzess increases the volume of fluid in the colon and accelerates intestinal transit. This means that it will lead to an increase in bowel movements.

Linzess is a fairly popular drug — one of the 300 most prescribed drugs in the United States — yet it is an expensive drug. Linzess costs around $474.00 for a 30-day supply of 145mcg pills in the United States. You can order the same prescription from NorthWestPharmacy.com for $143.29.

Lubiprostone (Amitiza)

Amitza is another medication used to treat both IBC-C and chronic constipation. It is also approved to treat opioid-associated constipation. Amitza also works to increase the amount of fluid in the bowel, although it does so in a different way than Linzess.

It's notable that Amitza has only been approved to treat IBC-C in women.

As is the case with Linzess, Amitza is not a cheap drug. It retails around $439.80 for 60 24mcg capsules. At NorthWestPharmacy.com, you can order 56 24mcg capsules for $403.59.

Tagaserod (Zelnorm)

Zelnorm is a drug with a weird history. While it was originally brought to market in 2002, the FDA removed it from the market in 2007 due to worries about certain cardiovascular side effects. However, the drug was brought back to market in 2019.

Zelnorm is an expensive drug. For a pack of 60 6mg pills, you'll pay around $470.00. Unfortunately, Zelnorm is not sold in Canada or any other countries we source drugs from, so NorthWestPharmacy.com does not carry it.

Why is IBS Medication So Expensive?

After seeing how much IBS-C medication costs, you might be asking yourself, "How in the world is medication for a common condition so expensive?" Often, when people think about expensive drugs, they typically think about drugs for hard-to-treat or rare diseases. But IBS isn't particularly rare — like we said at the beginning of the article, 10 - 15% of the population is suspected to suffer from it.

It's so common that there are hundreds of over-the-counter products to treat it. You'd think, then, that this would drive the cost of medication down. After all, think about how many people likely take them!

The thing is though, the price of medication isn't determined by supply and demand, like in a traditional economic system.

In the United States, there is very little regulation on what drug companies can charge consumers for medication. This means that they can fundamentally charge whatever they want for drugs. For those with painful conditions like IBS, often the choice is simply to pay or to suffer.

Even with health insurance, many Americans end up priced out of the medication that they need. The out of pocket costs are simply too high, especially when compared to the price of drugs in countries that do have consumer protections in place, like Canada or most of Europe.

It's not unusual for Americans to pay hundreds of dollars for a prescription depending on the medication — and that's in addition to their monthly insurance premium.

Many argue that pharmaceutical companies simply don't care about the burden placed on consumers. They only care about their bottom line. For example, in 2018, the manufacturer of Linzess increased the price of the drug to $414 from $378.

Now, a bystander might think that the reason why the price was increased was due to demand along with a lack of competition. Yet, in 2017, Synergy Pharmaceuticals brought out a competing drug called Trulance that also treats IBS-C. With more competition, you'd expect Linzess's price to go down — but the opposite happened, and Linzess saw a price increase.

With no regulatory solutions in place, the American healthcare system is at the whims of pharmaceutical companies. In the US, the drug companies see an opportunity that they don't see anywhere else in the world. They can charge what they want while being granted an effective monopoly by the government. And as the consumer, you will have to pick up the bill.

That is, unless you're able to find an alternative like NorthWestPharmacy.com.

The NorthWestPharmacy.com Advantage

For many Americans, the vice-grip that the pharmaceutical industry has on prices means that they simply cannot afford their medications. Luckily, there is a solution.

Those struggling to pay for their medications can look to international online pharmacies for help. Unlike in the United States, other developed countries have robust systems in place to prevent pharmaceutical companies from charging whatever they want. This means that drugs tend to be cheaper in other countries — something that international pharmacies can help Americans take advantage of.

Americans heading across the border to Canada for cheaper medications is not a new phenomenon — in fact, it's been going on for years. Yet, in recent years, more and more Americans have started to cross the border for medication.

Luckily, thanks to NorthWestPharmacy.com, you don't have to go on a sojourn north to gain access to affordable medication.

NorthWestPharmacy.com can ship your medication directly to your front door. If you need assistance with your order — or have any questions at all — our customer service representatives are always available to help. They'll walk you through the entire process from start to finish. When you purchase your medication from us, you can be assured of savings, safety and service. Thanks to hundreds of thousands of reviews from happy customers, NorthWestPharmacy.com is the most reviewed and independently five-star rated online pharmacy in the world. Navigating prescription drug costs is almost always stressful and overwhelming. At NorthWestPharmacy.com, our goal is to help you save money on your prescription medications. For more information, you can call us toll free at 1-866-539-5330 or contact us online.

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