Primarily home-based cognitive-behavioral therapy improved irritable bowel syndrome symptoms at least as much as conventional CBT, cut clinician time by 60%, and significantly outperformed educational sessions in a multicenter clinical trial reported in the July issue of.
Acutely, primarily home-based CBT produced a mean 61% improvement in self-reported symptoms on the IBS version of the Clinical Global Impressions Scale, versus 44% for the educational control group (P less than .05), wrote, of the State University of New York at Buffalo and his associates. Blinded gastroenterologists reported improvements of 56% and 40%, respectively (P less than .05). The superiority of the minimal-contact CBT program held up at 6 months and equivalence tests found it “at least as effective as standard CBT,” the researchers wrote.
IBS is a major area of unmet clinical need that costs the United States some $28 billion annually. Clinicians and patients lack both reliable biomarkers and “uniformly effective” therapies, the investigators noted. In recent years, severe adverse events have greatly restricted the availability of otherwise promising Food and Drug Administration–approved therapies, such as(alosetron hydrochlorine), which has been linked to ischemic colitis and fatal cases of ruptured bowel, and (tegaserod maleate), which has been associated with myocardial infarction, stroke, and unstable angina.
In contrast, face-to-face CBT is safe, efficacious, and guideline recommended for IBS. However, uptake is limited by cost, stigma, geography, and a shortage of certified providers, the researchers noted. They enrolled 436 patients with IBS based onand randomly assigned them to one of three interventions. The standard CBT group received 10 weekly, 60-minute, face-to-face CBT sessions on brain-gut interactions, symptom triggers and monitoring, muscle relaxation, worry control, problem-solving, and relapse prevention. The primarily home-based CBT group covered the same topics but attended only four clinic sessions and was provided home study materials. Finally, the education group attended four sessions with background information on IBS and the role of stress, diet, and exercise.
Baseline characteristics were comparable among groups, as were dropout rates (9% overall). In all, 89% of patients completed at least 8 of 10 standard cognitive-behavioral therapy sessions or at least three of four home-based CBT or educational sessions. Six months after the interventions ended, primarily home-based CBT continued to outperform education (blinded gastroenterologist-reported improvements, 58.4% and 44.8%, respectively; P = .05 for difference between groups).
Equivalence tests indicated that the minimal-CBT intervention was at least as effective as standard CBT, and improvements were not primarily the result of concomitant medications, according to the researchers. Nonetheless, only 42% of patients who benefited from CBT achieved remission, defined as no or mild IBS symptoms on the gastroenterologist-administered Clinical Global Impressions Scale. Unremitted patients might benefit from combining CBT with medical therapies that target both “central and peripheral mechanisms of IBS,” the investigators said.
The three interventions produced comparable acute and longer-term improvements on the IBS Symptom Severity Scale, which emphasizes sensory symptoms and therefore might be a less sensitive endpoint than the Clinical Global Impressions Scale, the researchers noted. Nonetheless, CBT produced some of the strongest absolute symptomatic improvements ever reported for IBS. “To put these data in context, treatment response of FDA-approved pharmacological agents using global IBS symptom improvement scales range from 17% to 40%,” the researchers wrote.
The National Institutes of Health provided funding. The investigators reported having no conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: Lackner JM et al. Gastroenterology. 2018 Apr 24. .