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New PBS listing to ease burden of inflammatory bowel disease


Morgan Liotta


9/07/2021 3:10:57 PM

The listing of the treatment of moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis is a key step in helping thousands of Australians.

Woman holding head looking stressed
Fatigue and depression are among the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

From July, tofacitinib citrate (sold as Xeljanz) will be available on the PBS as a twice-daily oral treatment option for people living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), specifically moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis.

Active ingredient tofacitinib citrate is classified as a Janus kinase inhibitor and limits activation of the immune system involved in auto-immune conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel conditions.

Professor Jakob Begun, Mater Hospital IBD specialist, said the PBS listing is an important step in helping many Australians experiencing the burden of the disease.

‘Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the large bowel characterised by “flares”, which can be unpredictable and have a debilitating impact on a patient’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing,’ he said.

‘This announcement from the Government will provide clinicians caring for these patients the ability to explore additional treatment options.’

The prevalence and severity of IBD − including ulcerative colitis − is increasing in Australia, with around one in 250 people aged 5−40 effected.

Around 75,000 Australians have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, with this number projected to increase to 100,000 by 2022.

IBD is also placing significant burden on healthcare utilisation costs, including from increased IBD-related hospitalisations.

Ulcerative colitis, characterised by chronic inflammation of the inner-most lining of the large intestine, can cause bleeding, diarrhoea, urgency of bowel movements, abdominal pain, tiredness and weight loss.

The condition has also been found to have a direct link to mental health.

International study findings show the majority (65%) of people with the condition feel it controls their life, rather than them controlling the disease, with most patients (67%) spending more time in the bathroom than anywhere else.

For people with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis, 84% found it mentally exhausting and 83% said it affected their work, while 21% reported diagnoses of anxiety and 15% depression.

Given the significant burden of IBD, Crohn’s and Colitis Australia CEO Leanne Raven welcomed the news of the PBS listing for treatment of ulcerative colitis.

‘Inflammatory bowel disease continues to have a devastating effect on our community,’ she said.

‘Given the high prevalence of these conditions and broad range impact on daily lives, it is important that we continue to look at ways to improve treatments and support for people living with ulcerative colitis.’

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