Hey, doctor, Salix says. Check in with your IBS patients—they're suffering in the pandemic

Bausch Health headquarters (formerly Valeant)
Salix Pharmaceuticals, the gastroenterology business of Bausch Health, is raising awareness of irritable bowel syndrome patients' needs during the pandemic. (Bausch Health)

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have been hurting—literally—through the pandemic. One-third of IBS patients reported worsening physical symptoms, but even more worrisome, almost half (49%) said their mental health has suffered over the past year.

That’s according to a report from Salix Pharmaceuticals, which was looking to gauge the pandemic's effects on IBS patients. The gastroenterology business arm of Bausch Health, Salix is now taking the data to doctors and patients in hopes of driving productive conversations between the two, said Salix Chief Medical Officer Howard Franklin, M.D.

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Along with digital and social media educational efforts, Salix’s field force is sharing the study data directly with healthcare providers who may not be aware of what’s been happening. After all, many patients aren't seeing their doctors as often as they did before the pandemic: Thirty-five percent of Salix's survey respondents had not discussed their IBS symptoms with a healthcare provider since the pandemic began.

“I think doctors are surprised, but when they hear the information hopefully it changes their mindset and alerts them that to the fact that these patients have lost contact," Franklin said. And that as the pandemic alleviates, they need to get back in touch with them."

Easing out of the pandemic, however, may not be simple or quick for IBS patients. Salix's report, based on a survey by Farleigh Dickinson University Poll, also found that people are concerned about post-pandemic life.

Their worries include whether they'll have easy access to restrooms, which concerns more than half (55%) of IBS patients. Another 48% wonder about being able to attend social gatherings.

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“Our hope is that Salix informs providers and patients that these concerns are real and they can be addressed as we transition back,” Franklin said.

Salix's gastro portfolio includes Xifaxan, approved to treat adults with IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), and Trulance, approved for IBS with constipation (IBS-C) or chronic idiopathic constipation.

Xifaxan accounted for 78% of Salix's revenue and 18% of Bausch Health's total sales in 2020. Sales of the IBS-D med remained relatively flat at $1.48 billion, a 2% increase over $1.45 billion in 2019; Bausch did not break out Trulance sales.

Robert Spurr, president of Salix, said in a press release that the information is important in understanding the COVID-19 effect on the 12 million Americans living with IBS as the “new insights may foster important dialogue.”