Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of chronic conditions, affecting over 10 million people worldwide. The most common forms of IBD are ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease, resulting in symptoms such as diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps and fatigue. IBD is most common amongst adolescents and young adults, and so the impact of experiencing symptoms such as these can be restrictive and debilitating on what is typically an active stage of an individual’s life. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract (from the mouth to the anus) and there can be healthy parts of the intestine between inflamed areas, whereas UC is continuous inflammation restricted to the colon and rectum.
UC is a life-long disease and although people living with the condition may have periods of remission, they are also prone to flare-ups, when the condition is more active.
The symptoms associated with UC and Crohn’s can have both an emotional and physical impact, which can cause difficulties and embarrassment for patients in their everyday life, such as during school, work and social events. These symptoms may also result in patients avoiding or missing social events and in the workplace, bouts of tiredness can affect performance and negatively impact confidence; whilst pain or daily needs of the condition can make focusing on work a struggle.
Many patients can find UC mentally exhausting – the impact of the condition often means that patients think UC controls their life, rather than they have control of their disease.
Professor Vermeire, from the Gastroenterology Department of the University Hospital Leuven shares her insights on the impact of this disease on young people below.
Although UC is an incurable, chronic condition, the symptoms tend to present periodically, and so patients usually experience flare-ups and periods of remission. The unpredictability of the disease makes it particularly difficult to manage, there are treatments that can help alleviate the symptomsof the disease; however, despite significant scientific progress in the understanding of chronic inflammatory conditions, many patients continue to face challenges controlling their disease due to suboptimal treatment options.
With an ever increasing population resulting in an increased prevalence of IBD, many physicians are facing their own concerns with treating patients in the future. Dr Peter Irving, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, London explains more.
“I think the challenges and concerns are based around the fact largely that we have a growing population of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Of course, nowadays, people are living longer as well and so we have a sort of compounding prevalence. So, there are challenges in relation to the healthcare system and our ability to cope with all these patients. And then there are challenges posed, I guess, by the drugs that are available to us because there are some patients, that despite an increasing number of treatment options, we still can’t get on top of their disease.”
Dr. Peter Irving, UK Consultant Gastroenterologist
Unfortunately, current treatments aren’t successful for all patients and it is estimated that more than half of patients living with IBD are unable to achieve and maintain disease remission. Current therapies can be associated with severe side effects and loss of response over time. Therefore, there is a need to develop new treatments, effective for a wider population.
To address this, in 2019 Galapagos began a multi-year research and development partnership in inflammation with Gilead. Over the next decade the companies will use combined resources, infrastructure, and experience to accelerate r drug discovery efforts and investigate potential new therapies for IBD for both healthcare professional and patient communities. Together, Galapagos and Gilead are committed to advancing the treatment of inflammatory diseases and improving the ongoing patient needs through the partnership and collaborations with the scientific and medical community.
“We go after the diseases that some companies may shy away from because the chances of success seem low. We trust our science and our biology, and we go after targets that we think we can make a big difference to the quality of patients’ lives. I am excited by what the future will bring as we continue to share our scientific knowledge and goals to develop medicines that change the course of disease for UC patients.”
Dr. Walid Abi-Saab, Chief Medical Officer at Galapagos
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European Federation of Crohn’s & Ulcerative Colitis Associations. World IBD day report 2018
https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/pdfs/living-with-ulcerative.pdf Date accessed 29 September 2020
The facts about inflammatory bowel disease [brochure]. New York, NY: Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America; 2014. Accessed September 29, 2020
Fernández-Clotet A, Castro-Poceiro J, Pants J. JAK inhibition: the most promising agents in the IBD pipeline? Curr Pharm Des. 2019;25(1):32-40