November 6, 2013

New Survey Reveals More than Half of Americans are Living with Gastrointestinal Symptoms and Not Seeking Care from a Doctor

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NORTH CHICAGO, Ill., Nov. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- According to a new, national survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, 72 percent said they have experienced at least one of the following gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms a few times a month or more: diarrhea, gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movements, unexplained weight-loss and non-specific GI discomfort. Surprisingly, a majority of surveyed participants (74 percent) have lived with their GI symptoms for more than six months. Despite this, more than half (56 percent) of those who have experienced GI discomfort have not spoken with their primary care doctor because they do not believe their symptoms require physician attention.

AbbVie commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct an online survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adult men and women to uncover insights about the public's approach to managing common GI symptoms, seeking help from a healthcare professional, and their awareness of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). EPI is the inability to properly digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins due to a lack of digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas.

"There is a critical need for people to educate themselves about digestive health issues and seek guidance from a healthcare professional, who can determine if their unidentified GI symptoms are serious enough to warrant further attention or specialist intervention," said Dr. Roshini Raj, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center/Tisch Hospital in New York City. "It's imperative that anyone who experiences these symptoms take an active role managing their health and engages in an open and honest dialogue with their healthcare professional, and not simply attribute GI symptoms to stress or an improper diet."

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of those surveyed who experienced GI discomfort for more than six months went to the doctor to discuss their symptoms. Among those who spoke to their primary care doctor about their GI symptoms, only 24 percent received a diagnosis, while 11 percent reported that they visited their primary care doctor two or more times before receiving a diagnosis or being referred to a specialist.

Additionally, a majority of survey participants who experienced GI symptoms (73 percent) reported that their GI discomfort may cause feelings of frustration.  An overwhelming number of those surveyed (89 percent) reported that an improper diet may affect their GI discomfort. Whereas, 19 percent of those who have a primary care doctor and have not spoken to their doctor about their GI discomfort reported that they are able to manage symptoms on their own with diet changes. Others believe one may need to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate for GI discomfort or pain with changes to their wardrobe (59 percent).

"AbbVie is committed to encouraging the public to seek medical attention to determine the cause of regular digestive issues since most of the conditions that feature these symptoms can be managed once diagnosed," said Maria Rivas, M.D., Vice President, Global Medical Affairs, AbbVie. "The insights garnered from this survey underscore the need to elevate conversations around digestive health."

The survey also uncovered insights about the public's awareness of EPI, revealing that a significant percentage of Americans – 86 percent – are not at all knowledgeable about the condition. For people with EPI, the pancreas does not produce enough enzymes to help in digestion, or breakdown of food into nutrients. EPI symptoms (including diarrhea, gas, bloating and stomach pain) can mimic the symptoms of other common digestive diseases.

For more information about EPI, visit The Symptom Connect tool is one example of a valuable resource on the website to help people who are experiencing GI symptoms start a conversation with their doctor.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Interactive on behalf of AbbVie from August 14-16, 2013 among 2,010 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey was not based on a probability sample and therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please reach out to Phyliss Milligan (contact information provided below).

About EPI

A healthy pancreas produces proteins called enzymes that help break down foods into nutrients for the body. In people with EPI, the pancreas does not produce enough of its main enzymes – lipase, amylase, and protease – which help in the digestion, or breakdown, of food into nutrients. EPI can cause improper digestion and absorption of nutrients in food such as fats, carbohydrates and proteins. The most common symptoms of EPI may include steatorrhea, a type of diarrhea (foul-smelling, oily stools that are hard to flush), gas, bloating, stomach pain, frequent bowel movement and weight loss. EPI is associated with well-known diseases like chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), cystic fibrosis (a disease that affects the lungs and digestive systems), pancreatectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the pancreas), pancreatic cancer, or diabetes.

About AbbVie

AbbVie is a global, research-based biopharmaceutical company formed in 2013 following separation from Abbott. The company's mission is to use its expertise, dedicated people and unique approach to innovation to develop and market advanced therapies that address some of the world's most complex and serious diseases. In 2013, AbbVie employs approximately 21,000 people worldwide and markets medicines in more than 170 countries. For further information on the company and its people, portfolio and commitments, please visit Follow @abbvie on Twitter or view careers on our Facebook or LinkedIn page.



Phyliss Milligan