Biological therapies offer hope to IBD sufferers

girl_tummy_ache Antibody-based biological therapies can reduce the severity of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a national report in the UK has shown.

According to the first UK Inflammatory Bowel Disease Audit, treatment with two monoclonal antibodies, Remicade and Humira, led to remission in 62% of adult patients and 73% of paediatric patients.

Remicade (infliximab) from MSD and Humira (adalimumab) from AbbVie are both already used in the UK for treatment of IBD that has not responded to standard immunosuppressive or corticosteroid treatments.

IBD affects some 24,000 people in the UK. It is a painful and difficult long-term condition with diverse causes and symptoms, often brought on by sustained use of NSAID medicines such as ibuprofen.

The audit examined 1406 adults and 234 children when they were started on biological therapies and again after 12 weeks of treatment.

The median scores for disease symptoms were reduced. After treatment, 62% of adults and 73% of children were in remission.

The report noted that a shortage of outpatient appointments was delaying access to these treatments in many cases.

It also recommended that patients will benefit most from the drugs if care is taken to provide the correct loading dose, screen for opportunistic infections, and avoid unnecessary pre-treatment with corticosteroids.

Ian Arnott, clinical lead for the UK Inflammatory Bowel Disease Audit and consultant gastroenterologist at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, said the cost of biological therapies (£10,000 per year per patient) meant that uptake was uneven across the UK:

“Some commissioners are baulking at the cost but when you see the results from use of biological therapies, the reduction in symptoms, the improved quality of life reported, relatively low frequency of adverse reactions, and the reduction in hospital admissions and surgical interventions, the cost-effectiveness speaks for itself.”