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Inflammatory bowel disease: New treatment takes new tack

There is a new treatment for people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases that nips the problem in the bud.
November 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
More than a million Americans suffer from IBD, inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. The symptoms, which include abdominal pain, constant diarrhea and intestinal bleeding, can be very disruptive.

While there are some treatments out there for IBD, not all of them are effective. Now, there's a new therapy for those who have tried everything.

A year ago, Megan Johnson was wheelchair-bound. The 29-year-old has ulcerative colitis. She suffered from constant diarrhea, bleeding, malnutrition and severe pain.

"I just said, like, if this is my life, like, I don't want it. Like, it's too miserable," Johnson said.

When doctors suggested removing her intestines, Johnson found UCSD gastroenterologist William Sandborn.

"It's always surprising to me in a way, how much inflammatory bowel disease can impact a patient's life," Sandborn said.

In inflammatory bowel disease, immune cells travel to the colon and make chemicals that cause inflammation. Most treatments target the chemicals after they attack.

But a new therapy, called vedolizumab, stops cells before they attack.

"It really acts to stop the diseases before they even start," Sandborn explained.

In a clinical trial, patients who had infusions of vedolizumab every four or eight weeks went into remission.

"I can't even remember the last time I felt this good," Johnson said.

Johnson is excited about this new option. She knows every day without pain is a good day.

The new drug was tested in patients with both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. It could be approved and available for use by 2014.

Another benefit is that the therapy is targeted, so side effects like weight gain, nausea and headaches are expected to be much less common.