While it may not be fatal, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) ranks high in discomfort and embarrassment. The chronic gastrointestinal disorder is characterized by symptoms such as cramping, bloating, constipation, gas, and diarrhea. There is no cure for IBS. Its cause isn’t even certain. However, pharmaceutical companies worldwide are developing treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of IBS and help patients to lead more normal lives. One such company is Ironwood Pharmaceuticals. The Cambridge, Mass.-based company has signed a $75 million deal with Astellas Pharmaceuticals to market Ironwood’s IBS drug in Asia. In exchange, Astellas receives exclusive rights to market the drug in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand. Ironwood’s IBS drug candidate, linaclotide, is undergoing clinical trials to treat chronic constipation and IBS with constipation. Last week, Ironwood announced positive data from two pivotal clinical trials. A significant number of patients experienced relief from constipation, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. Over 1200 patients participated in the studies. Ironwood also has a licensing deal with Spanish pharma company Almirall to market linaclotide in the European Union, and is partnered with Forest Laboratories to commercialize linaclotide in the United States. Forest Laboratories reports that the U.S. healthcare system spends more than $25 billion on IBS per year. Some companies developing treatments for IBS include Alizyme, Norgine, AGI Therapeutics, and INKine Pharmaceutical Company.