Amitriptyline Could Be Effective in Irritable Bowel Syndrome Treatment, Study Shows 

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British researchers found that the antidepressant amitriptyline, known as Elavil and Vanatrip, can help alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in patients treated by general practitioners. In the study conducted in primary care settings, patients adjusted their doses using a specialized document. 

The research findings indicated that individuals using amitriptyline were approximately two times more likely to report overall symptom improvement compared to those on a placebo.

Low-dose amitriptyline effective for persistent IBS

According co-chief investigator of the study, Professor Alexander Ford of the University of Leeds, amitriptyline, deemed safe and well-tolerated and proved effective in treating IBS. Ford advises that primary care physicians should consider low-dose amitriptyline for patients whose IBS symptoms persist after initial treatments, as per the recent research. 

Irritable Bowel Syndrome affects 1 in 20 people globally, causing abdominal pain and bowel issues. It lacks a cure, fluctuates in severity, and disrupts life. Available treatments are often ineffective. Amitriptyline, a tricyclic medication, previously used for depression, is now rarely prescribed for it due to newer alternatives. 

Prior to the ATLANTIS trial, limited small-scale studies hinted at the advantages of low-dose tricyclic antidepressants in managing IBS among challenging cases in hospital clinics. ATLANTIS is the inaugural randomized controlled primary care trial comparing low-dose amitriptyline to a placebo, making it the largest trial globally. 

Amitriptyline improved IBS symptoms after six months 

While general practitioners commonly prescribe low-dose amitriptyline for chronic nerve pain and migraine prevention, its efficacy in IBS treatment was previously unclear. According to findings from the ATLANTIS trial, amitriptyline offers a discernible advantage for IBS patients when initial treatments prove ineffective, granting GPs the option to prescribe this low-dose medication. 

The ATLANTIS trial, involving 463 IBS patients from the UK, found that amitriptyline, when compared to a placebo, significantly improved IBS symptoms after six months. This study, led by Professor Hazel Everitt, suggests that amitriptyline is a beneficial treatment for IBS, contrary to previous uncertainty among GPs. 

Amitriptyline’s positive effects seem linked to gut impact rather than antidepressant properties, as anxiety and depression scores remained constant during the study.

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