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Promising drug for Crohn's sufferers

January 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Crohn's Disease is one of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease. No one knows for sure what causes Crohn's and there's no cure. But scientists are finding ways to target the key problem. The FDA is looking at a promising new drug that could make a big difference for many sufferers.Doctors diagnosed Tara Roberts with Crohn's disease when she was 13-years-old. Since then, she's learned to live with stomach pain, fatigue, and worse.

"There's no warning, no control. You live with diarrhea 24/7," said Tara.

That's not easy when you're raising three busy kids.

Dr. William Sandborn of the Mayo Clinic is a Crohn's disease expert. It involves inflammation anywhere along the intestinal tract, and it's most often diagnosed in young adults between the ages of 20 and 30.

Dr. Sandborn explains patients make a lot of protein that causes inflammation, so he's trying to find a drug that blocks the protein in the intestine. He thinks he's found one. It's called certolizumab pegol (CIMZIATM).

"It's sort of a smart bomb drug targeted very specifically towards this bad protein," said Dr. Sandborn.

His study showed 65 percent of patients felt better after six months. This includes people who didn't respond to other drugs.

He says it's good to have options.

"It becomes very important to have two or three or four drugs in that class, because you can expect that any one of the drugs that the patient might take, that it's going to wear off," said Dr. Sandborn.

Tara has tried several different medicines and settled on one called Remicade. She is technically in remission, but that could end any time.

"If Remicade were to ever stop working, it's nice to know that there's a backup there, something else that I would be able to try," said Tara.

Research has indicated Crohn's has strong genetic links. The National Institutes of Health say American Jews of European descent have a high-risk factor.

Scientists now believe there are at least eight different genes linked to the development of the disease.