Introduction Using real-world healthcare, routinely collected information we investigated the prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and associated consumption of healthcare resources in the Scottish National Health Service.
Methods A consultation records database covering 56 general practitioner (GP) practices in Scotland (approximately 255,000 people; 5.8% of the population) was used to identify consultations primarily due to IBS with GP or practice nurses between April 2009 and March 2011 (Read codes: IBS, constipation, diarrhoea). Read codes suggesting other causes of diarrhoea or constipation and patients with inflammatory bowel disease, diverticular disease, coeliac disease or bowel cancer were excluded. A national primary care prescription database was used to identify use of antispasmodics, laxatives or antidiarrhoeals. Referrals to outpatient clinics and acute hospital admissions between January and December 2011 in antispasmodic-treated patients were also analysed using national datasets.
Results Based on consultation records, an estimated 341,180 adults (≥18 years) in Scotland suffer from IBS, representing an estimated prevalence of 7.7% (females: 9.8%; males: 5.5%). Patients consulted 1.05 times during 2010/11 for IBS symptoms and consulted more frequently overall than the general population (9.3 vs. 4.7 times per annum).
During 2011, 142,738 adults received ≥1 prescription for antispasmodics, most commonly mebeverine (40.1%), hysocine butylbromide (35.7%) or peppermint (18.0%), giving an estimated prevalence of antispasmodic-treated IBS of 3.4% (females: 4.7%; males: 2.0%). One-third of these patients were also prescribed laxatives (24.5%), the antidiarrhoeal loperamide (6.7%) or both (2.5%). Of the antispasmodic-treated patients, 11,645 (9.0%) visited a gastroenterology outpatient clinic in 2011 (11.7% of all gastroenterology clinic attendances) and 1,869 (1.3%) were acutely admitted to hospital due to IBS or symptoms likely to be associated with IBS, most frequently constipation (80.3%). The average length of hospital stay was 2.1 days (2.4 days for admissions due to constipation). A further 1,141 people with no record of antispasmodic prescriptions were admitted with a primary diagnosis of IBS.
Conclusion Based on consultation records, the estimated prevalence of IBS in Scotland is 7.7%, and 3.4% based on prescription records; these estimates exclude patients who do not consult a GP or who use laxatives alone or over-the-counter medicines. The prevalence estimates and levels of treatment in this study were consistent with other published information, and show that patients with IBS consume significant healthcare resources.
Study commissioned by Almirall UK.
Disclosure of Interest S. McTaggart Grant/research support from: This study was undertaken as a commercially contracted piece of work for Almirall UK, G. Wyper Grant/research support from: This study was undertaken as a commercially contracted piece of work for Almirall UK, L. Harkins Grant/research support from: This study was undertaken as a commercially contracted piece of work for Almirall UK, I. Bishop Grant/research support from: This study was undertaken as a commercially contracted piece of work for Almirall UK, M. Bennie Grant/research support from: This study was undertaken as a commercially contracted piece of work for Almirall UK, M. Rance Employee of: Almirall.
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