SAN DIEGO - One-point-four million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
Constant diarrhea, abdominal pain, and intestinal bleeding are just some of the symptoms these patients endure. Now, there's a new therapy for people who have tried everything.
A year ago, Megan Johnson would never have been able to enjoy a beautiful day.
"I was wheelchair-bound," said Johnson, who has ulcerative colitis.
Johnson, 29, suffered from constant diarrhea, bleeding, malnutrition, and severe pain.
"I just said if this is my life, I don't want it. It's too miserable," Johnson said.
When doctors suggested removing her intestines, Johnson found gastroenterologist William Sandborn.
"It's always surprising to me how much inflammatory bowel disease can impact a patient's life," said Sandborn, chief of division of gastroenterology, University of California San Diego, director of UC San Diego Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center.
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 said.
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," said Johnson, who is excited about the 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 in 2014. Another benefit is the therapy is targeted, so side effects like weight gain, nausea, and headaches are less common.
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- Berks Amanda VanAllen / 69 News