Chronic abdominal pain is a common gastrointestinal (GI) symptom that characterizes many functional GI disorders/disorders of gut-brain interaction, including irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, and centrally mediated abdominal pain syndrome. The symptoms of abdominal pain in these highly prevalent disorders are often treated with antispasmodic agents. Antispasmodic treatment includes a broad range of therapeutic classes with different mechanisms of action, including anticholinergic/antimuscarinic agents (inhibition of GI smooth muscle contraction), calcium channel inhibitors (inhibition of calcium transport into GI smooth muscle), and direct smooth muscle relaxants (inhibition of sodium and calcium transport). The aim of this review article was to examine the efficacy and safety of antispasmodics available in North America (e.g., alverine, dicyclomine, hyoscine, hyoscyamine, mebeverine, otilonium, pinaverium, and trimebutine) for the treatment of chronic abdominal pain in patients with common disorders of gut-brain interaction. For the agents examined, comparisons of studies are limited by inconsistencies in treatment dosing and duration, patient profiles, and diagnostic criteria employed. Furthermore, variability in study end points limits comparisons. Risk of selection, performance, detection, attrition, and reporting bias also differed among studies, and in many cases, risks were considered "unclear." The antispasmodics evaluated in this review, which differ in geographic availability, were found to vary dramatically in efficacy and safety. Given these caveats, each agent should be considered on an individual basis, rather than prescribed based on information across the broad class of agents.
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