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To assess the proportion of physician-diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients who conform to Rome II criteria, and evaluate the impact of IBS on quality of life (QoL) and costs in France.This cross-sectional study collected information retrospectively from the preceding year. Physicians (randomly selected) enrolled their first four IBS patients during the study period. Patients were classified (secondarily) according to Rome II criteria. IBS-related costs during the previous year were estimated.Of the 452 physician-diagnosed IBS patients (mean age 53.9±14.9 years; 75.4% women), 23% did not meet the diagnostic criteria; 36.5% met all diagnostic criteria, and 32% experienced severe or very severe abdominal pain/discomfort (Subjects' Global Assessment of relief). IBS patients had lower QoL (SF-36 scale) than the general French population, and Rome II patients had the lowest QoL. Most prescriptions treated abdominal pain (72%) and bloating (58%). Approximately 8% of patients had been hospitalized due to IBS during the preceding year. The average total annual direct cost/patient was €756.These data confirm that IBS involves large direct medical costs in France, and that IBS patients experience lower QoL than the general population. A small and not significant economic difference between the Rome II and non-Rome II IBS patient groups was observed.