New drug effective for Crohn's and colitis: study
Published Wednesday, August 21, 2013 6:11PM EDT
Canada has one of the highest rates of colitis and Crohn's disease in the world, but a new drug could offer help and hope to those with the chronic and debilitating conditions.
New Western University-led research into this promising treatment, called vedolizumab, has just been released.
Len Fitch is back in the saddle after battling Crohn's disease since 1974. The Windsor-area farmer says the drug has changed his life.
"I became became lethargic. I had headaches and started losing weight. It just got worse and worse…This drug I've been on it now for 14 months now, it worked immediately for me. I feel normal and have since the first day I took it."
Fitch was part of international clinical trials of the drug led by Dr. Brian Feagan, a researcher at Robarts Research Institute, who calls the treatment very important.
"It's a synthetic antibody. What we’ve done here is engineer the antibody to actually react to a human protein that really guide the white blood cells into the gut. This antibody really prevents the T-cells - the white blood cells - from getting to where they need to go, and in this case that’s beneficial."
The study being published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 47 per cent of patients with ulcerative colitis showed improvement while on the drug and 31 per cent of patients with Crohn's disease showed improvement.
As to why the drug was more effective for people with colitis rather than Crohn's disease is a bit of a medical mystery. One theory is that colitis is more localized in the body, while Crohn's is more diffuse.
Fitch experienced relapses and side effects with other treatments, but not this one, “It's an infusion that takes one hour out of my life once a month and I feel wonderful.”
Feagan says "Gut infections might be a potential risk. We did not see that with this drug."
The next step will be getting regulatory approval.
Fitch is hopeful about its impact, "It's changed my life and I don't see why it wouldn't change anybody else."
Researchers have reported seeing some striking benefits with the drug, notably in people who have failed to respond to all other treatments.