While bowel function is the butt of many a bad joke, for those who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) it is no laughing matter. Lotonex - a new drug from Glaxo-Wellcome - promises relief to the 20% of adults who are estimated to suffer from this painful and often stress-related condition. Unlike existing treatments, the active ingredient (called Alosetron) acts directly on serotonin receptor sites in the nervous system. This reduces the sensitivity of the gut, alleviating the chronic abdominal pain and diarrhoea which characterise many cases of IBS. What's more, the drug has few side effects, though it can cause constipation. Lotonex is currently undergoing advance clinical trials in the US and should be available there next year, but European approval is unlikely to be granted before 2001. When it does arrive, however, sales are predicted to be brisk.
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