Inflammatory bowel disease breakthrough offers hope to Crohn's and colitis sufferers | Fieldfisher
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Inflammatory bowel disease breakthrough offers hope to Crohn's and colitis sufferers

In research that has been described as a 'massive step forwards', scientists have discovered a main cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that should be treatable with drugs that are readily available.

According to leading UK charity Crohn's and Colitis UK, IBD (the umbrella term for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis) currently affects more than 500,000 people in the UK with numbers having risen globally in recent years. 

Part of the reason for the rise is generally considered to be lifestyle and environmental changes. Despite the increase in numbers of people suffering IBD, however, existing treatments often do not work in every patient and the development of new drugs is hindered by a lack of understanding over the causes of the disease.

Now, however, scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, UCL and Imperial College London have discovered certain DNA is only active in some immune cells that cause inflammation in bowels.

While there are no drugs that block this, drugs prescribed for non-inflammatory conditions were found to be effective by decreasing inflammation in the immune cells and also in the gut of IBD patients. 

Crohn’s & Colitis UK, which offers support to sufferers and campaigns for better understanding of the disease, reported in its healthcare survey from 2021 that more IBD sufferers are facing challenges in accessing healthcare, including longer wait times for clinic/outpatient appointments because of backlogs caused by Covid and reduced access to endoscopy and surgery.

Delays in diagnosis, treatment or planned surgery then result in a rise in emergency surgery, more extensive surgery and life-threatening complications. 

My colleagues and I are often contacted by people whose condition has deteriorated following a delay in diagnosis and treatment. If we consider that their care can be shown to be negligent, we pursue claims on behalf of clients for settlement to fund ongoing medical support and provide financial support.

Some such cases include our client Maria, whose ulcerative colitis went undiagnosed and untreated by her GP for more than 18 months. 

Maria was suffering from frequent diarrhoea and rectal bleeding but, despite this, was not referred for further investigations or treatment. Unfortunately, Maria's condition deteriorated with severe diarrhoea, rectal bleeding and fever so she attended her local A&E for treatment. 

She was misdiagnosed as suffering from gastroenteritis and was admitted to hospital. Her condition further declined and investigations were slow to be carried out. It was only six days after admission that a CT scan and flexible sigmoidoscopy were performed that revealed severe inflammation and large ulcers in the bowel. 

Maria was taken to surgery on day seven of her admission by which time her bowel had perforated and she had Toxic Megacolon. As a result, most of her large bowel had to be removed and she has been left with a permanent stoma and psychological consequences, which have dramatically impacted her life. 

This case demonstrates that healthcare professionals need to better understand the disease to ensure patients receive the investigations and treatments they need swiftly, to avoid life-threatening complications. 

If you have been affected by failings in care involving IBD, please contact Sevim Ahmet or Satvir Sokhi for an initial, confidential discussion about a potential claim.