Patients with severe bowel disease can benefit from a new drug that can eliminate their painful symptoms in just three months.
etrasimod tablet once a day treats ulcerative colitis by binding to immune cells and preventing them from mistakenly attacking healthy tissue in the lining of the intestine.
In a recent trial, 27 percent of sufferers who failed to respond to any other treatment were found to be in remission after just 12 weeks, and 32 percent were symptom-free after a year.
Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating, causing bloody diarrhea, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
It can also lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain and digestive discomfort – similar to the more common problem of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The once-a-day etrasimod tablet treats ulcerative colitis by binding to immune cells and preventing them from mistakenly attacking healthy tissue in the intestinal lining.
Dr Sami Hawke, a gastroenterologist at Barts Health NHS Trust in London who ran the UK arm of the etrasimod trial, described its results as “amazing”.
He added: “When I started treating ulcerative colitis, there were very few options available, and what we did caused serious side effects. The advantage of etrasimod is that it is highly selective, able to target runaway inflammatory cells without affecting the immune system as a whole.
It’s an important addition to existing treatments for bowel diseases, and unlike other treatments that involve injections, it comes as a once-daily tablet. This puts the power in patients’ hands, which means they can avoid regular visits to the hospital.
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term disorder that occurs when, for reasons not fully understood, the immune system attacks healthy body tissues in the lining of the large intestine or colon, causing inflammation and ulcers. It is one of the two main types of inflammatory bowel disease, along with Crohn’s disease.
Struggling to get colitis medications?
We want to hear your story.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The condition affects nearly 146,000 people in the UK, but experts suggest that many people may go undiagnosed and as many as one in ten over their 50s may have some form of the disease.
Patients can go for months without symptoms before they have an attack. During these episodes, some patients also have arthritis, mouth sores, and red eyes. In severe cases, they may also experience shortness of breath, palpitations, and fever.
If doctors suspect colitis, they first take a stool sample to test for a protein called calprotectin — a sign of inflammation in the gut.
If there is a positive result, the gastroenterologist will run further tests to look for physical signs of damage. This usually includes a colonoscopy, where a camera is inserted into the back passage and tissue is cut for testing.
First-line treatment includes tablets or suppositories containing anti-inflammatory drugs called aminosalicylates. These medications help manage mild seizures, but their effect wears off over time.
Other options include powerful steroids that reduce inflammation but carry a risk of unpleasant side effects such as acne, mood swings and diabetes. Medications that suppress the immune system may also be used, but can make patients susceptible to infections.
If these options fail, as in 15 percent of cases, surgery to remove the bowel may be the only option.
“Etrasimod can be used in combination with existing treatments to strengthen the body’s defenses and avoid the need for surgery,” said Dr. Hawk.
The drug has not yet been approved. However, experts hope that this process will begin later this year.
Romet Zucchi, 42, of Chigwell in Essex, was diagnosed with IBD in 2015 and treated with etrasimod as part of Barts’ trial.
A married father of a girl first went to his GP after he started seeing blood in his chair and needed to go to the toilet eight times a day.
He said, ‘Ignorance of what had befallen me was frightening. I started losing weight and was constantly tired from getting up all night to rush to the toilet.
Having failed to respond to other medications, he was enrolled in Barts’ etrasimod trial in 2020 and noted ‘dramatic improvement’.
He added: “I feel more confident and am able to live more or less like a normal person. Previously, I always worried about being near the toilet when I left the house and couldn’t exercise properly because I tire easily, but this is no longer a problem.
The strange science: a homemade drug caused a fungus in human veins
At the hospital, tests showed that the man’s liver and kidneys were failing due to the growth of the fungus psilocybe cubensis in his blood.
A man developed a life-threatening fungal infection after the fungus started growing in his bloodstream.
The 30-year-old American told doctors he was trying to find a way to treat his mental health issues.
After reading that psilocybin, a hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, could help cancer patients suffering from anxiety and depression, he boiled them in tea and injected it.
In the following days, he became nauseous and disoriented and began vomiting blood.
At the hospital, tests showed that his liver and kidneys were failing because the fungus psilocybe cubensis was growing in his blood.
The man spent 22 days in the hospital, eight of them in intensive care, after he was cleared of blood and two courses of antibiotics, according to the Journal of the Academy of Consulting Psychiatry.
Le Labo coffee body scrub
It provides a gentle exfoliation but uses coffee beans instead of the harmful microplastics found in many scrubs.
And it smells good enough to eat it.
Le Labo coffee body scrub