When I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age six, I did not know the severe impact it would have on my future abilities. Collectively, two diseases, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are known as Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD). Ulcerative Colitis causes ulcers in the large intestine, which in turn affects the entire body. I was diagnosed at a young age, and thus my disease was incredibly aggressive. There are currently no known cures, and while the incidence of IBD rises, approximately 1.6 million Americans are suffering—including around 30,000 people in Indiana alone. Increasingly, the younger population is being diagnosed, and with that I felt the need to start the Crohn’s and Colitis Teen Times, a nonprofit organization that provides support to teens and adults suffering with IBD and other chronic conditions.
One of my inspirations, Cory Lane, who passed away with Crohn’s Disease and Osteosarcoma suffered a many years with Crohn’s. The treatment that is currently available is great for disease management, but it comes with side effects as well. Often times treatment and research is not focused on for IBD, because the two diseases are in most cases not necessarily directly deadly, but there side effects can be, Namely some treatments and procedures that can lead to diabetes, infections, cancers, and a multitude of other chronic conditions.
Financially, IBD is extremely expensive for patients and caretakers. It is estimated that IBD treatment costs around $11 billion to $28 billion every year. The social, emotional, and physical burden is thus accompanied by the financial burden.
Students often miss school, because of how severe the disease can become during flare-ups (periods of active inflammation). For me, attending school was difficult as I had several surgeries, which took a part of normalcy away from my family for a few years during my long and severe flare-up; I spent quite a bit of time in the hospital. If only researchers would be able to find a medication that prevents life-altering surgeries and hospital admissions, it would ease financial burden of patients but also save healthcare system a considerable amount of money. Insurance companies are able to help cover prescription drugs, and for many people this is the best option because the cost for surgery and hospital admissions adds up.
Biologics are new drugs available for IBD treatment, and they have proven to reduce symptoms and help patients go in to remission. These medications also come with negative side effects, but this medical breakthrough represents a monumental step in the fight against IBD, and gives hope that we are closer to finding an overall cure. It is imperative that researchers continue to study medications to test the safety and produce better results. We need to support drug companies working on these medicines so they may be able to find a safe and effective treatment option. We need to work together to accomplish this potentially transformational treatment.
While drug companies spend time and money trying to discover new medicines and cures, many ideas do not come out of the research phase. However, the medicines that are actually developed are unable to be prescribed to patients due to numerous clinical trials and tests. Only 5% of new medications are actually available for the improvement of patients. The length of time—15 years is extremely long for the medicine to go from a revolutionary idea to a medical breakthrough.
Therefore, we must do our part to help companies in their fight to save the quality of life for many. The cure for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease will not be possible without the research that companies conduct. Medical innovation is absolutely necessary, for people like me, and for others suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases.