Inflammatory Bowel Disease: 40 Years Of Progress
Education and Advocacy 60 percent of Canadians suffer with some kind of digestive condition, ranging in severity from mild to life-threatening, but the social stigma associated with discussing bowel problems causes many to suffer in silence.
orty years ago, Gail Raeside, a woman in her early twenties, died from Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any area of the digestive tract and even other parts of the body. Her parents and a group of empathetic individuals, including several gastroenterologists, formed a registered charity now called the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research (CSIR). They wanted people to stop dying of IBD.
It is wild to reflect on how extreme innovative treatments could be centuries ago, when medical science was in its infancy. For example, practitioners once created a tube-fumigator-bellows contraption to literally blow smoke up the ass of patients in an attempt to combat IBD and other conditions.
By 1976, physicians were no longer blowing tobacco smoke up the rectum, but there were still very few effective treatments for severe Crohn’s disease; sadly, physicians were not able to save Raeside.
We’ve come a long way
We are celebrating 40 years of helping individuals who have digestive illnesses and are not resting on our laurels. William Pollard, a 19th century Quaker, said, “The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.” We are determined to continue adapting to the times as we offer science-based information about the digestive tract in lay terms.
Alongside our work, global medical data has significantly evolved, but current treatments still fail for some patients and cures for most digestive ailments elude us.
At the turn of the 21st century, manufacturers released biologics to treat IBD and other inflammatory conditions. Biologics are large molecule, intricate medicines, produced in living cells from highly specialized ingredients using a complex biotechnology process.
Until researchers solve every health problem, we still need help in the form of evidence-based, innovative medicines and to ensure our researchers have adequate funding so discovery can continue.
As these transformative drugs are now coming off patent, other manufacturers are producing copies, which are similar, but not identical, to the innovator products. Health Canada, our drug regulator, says these aren’t generic versions, because they are too complex to be exact copies. Instead, they are called biosimilars.
Biosimilars are less expensive and will decrease spending on all biologics. Governments and private insurers should direct these savings to provide more access to other, innovative medicines. We look to new research to provide fresh hope for patients, because not every currently available treatment works for every person with bowel disease.
Humans crave invention
Patients deserve progress in their care. We expect and demand better smartphones each year and trust with every software update our ability to use computers improves. We want the bells and whistles. We must also expect and demand the best in our medical treatments.
We need more research and innovation to support our community for IBDs, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. All of the other digestive conditions from gum to bum — such as heartburn, dyspepsia, ulcer disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular disease, and more — need research breakthroughs too.
Our medication insurance programs should be generous and inclusive so our population can go from striving to thriving. Until researchers solve every health problem, we still need help in the form of evidence-based, innovative medicines and to ensure our researchers have adequate funding so discovery can continue.
Forty years is not enough. While the health care system has grown and evolved in many ways since 1976, we still need to help patients and their families navigate through all of these changes. We want those cures!
Let’s keep death at bay for as long as possible and live life to its fullest.