Around 250,000 Britons suffering from Crohn’s disease may find relief with a new drug set to emerge on the market.
The drug, Vedolizumab, is the first which will work directly in the lining of the gut. It will target the inflammation which causes the chronic symptoms of the disease, such as fatigue, bleeding and diarrhoea.
Vedolizumab is the greatest advancement in drugs known as anti-TNFs since they were first developed during the 1990s. Barts Health NHS Trust researchers say the treatment, which costs about £12000 per annum, offers ‘additional options’.
Crohn’s disease can be diagnosed at any age, however it is more common early in life. Sufferers often experience periods of good health and periods when the symptoms appear to be more active, known as flare-ups or relapses.
During trials, 40% of the patients suffered no symptoms for at least 12 months, some experiencing healing of the gut lining. Trial data on 2700 patients from centres including Cardiff, Cambridge and London, indicated that twice as many patients remained symptom-free compared to those being treated with a dummy drug.
The drug is produced by Japan-based Takeda UK and is given by infusion every eight weeks.
A consultant gastroenterologist and UK principal clinical trial investigator at Barts and the London NHS Trust, Dr James Lindsay, said more than ten years ago, the inception of anti-TNFs increased the manner in which moderate or severe UC and CD patients managed their diseases. These same patients, many of which face a lifetime of chronic symptoms, can now make use of vedolizumab as an additional treatment method. It offers them a new action mode which targets gut lining inflammation.
Many patients suffering with Crohn’s are unresponsive to current treatment methods, or the effects thereof disappear rapidly, leaving them to face major surgery at a young age.
A lifetime of treatment for Crohn’s patients costs the NHS an estimated £720m each year. This places the financial burden on the same level as other chronic illnesses, such as cancer and diabetes.
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