A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to attend the 2015 ECCO conference held in Barcelona. This is a scientific meeting the brings together the best minds in IBD to share and learn from advances in surgical and medical care, improving economic costs and quality of care, and understanding of the role environment plays in IBD.
Many thanks to our sponsors Abbvie and Ferring who helped fund my participation at the conference. Without their help, we would not have been able to join our international colleagues in developing a joint awareness campaign nor would I have been able to update you all on the wonderful and exciting innovations taking place in the world of IBD.
From a layperson’s perspective, it was interesting to see new research areas being discussed. There were very interesting presentations on microbiota, biosimilars and treating to target – all new areas. There was also a good amount of time devoted to quality of care programs to make the patient pathway in the health system more efficient and effective ( keeping people well and out of hospital) and quality of life funding for programs that take care of general wellbeing.
It was good to see that a number of areas – outside of tradition medical and surgical therapy are now being considered as therapy options to support remission. We learnt that gut flora can be changed by eating specific fresh foods such as cruciferous vegetables as a regular part of a healthy diet which in turn has the potential to induce remission in some IBD cases.
There were presentations on the the new drug therapy Vedolizumab, which treats only the affected area of the bowel avoiding the potential issues associated with a supressed immune system caused by older biologic therapies.
Biosimilars, which are a copy of existing biologic therapies produced by a different manufacture, were a topic of much discussion. Not enough is yet known about biosimilars in the field of IBD although they are currently being used in some parts of the world to treat rheumatoid arthritis as a more cost effective option. In the coming years, as patents expire on the current biologic therapies used to treat IBD, biosimilars and their efficacy and safety for IBD patients will be an important area of patient education to enable informed choices before switching medication.
The conference not only presented an opportunity for patient representatives to upgrade their IBD knowledge but to also come together and share ideas and developments from their own countries. It was a similar conference six years ago that gave life to World IBD Day and created a shared understanding of patient experiences and needs. This year, my American, European and UK colleagues met to discuss a new co-created awareness program for World IBD Day, May 19, 2015. The global awareness program harnesses social media channels and invites individual to participate in a very specific and powerful way. More details and an invitation to participate will be released mid-April in preparation for a worldwide launch on May 19.
Until next time
CEO of Crohn’s & Colitis Australia