June 20, 2016 7:17 pm
Updated: June 20, 2016 11:35 pm

Alberta researchers aim to reduce chronic steroid use in Crohn’s and colitis patients

WATCH ABOVE: A new national research network is giving people with Crohn's disease and colitis new hope. Su-Ling Goh explains.

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The University of Calgary and the University of Alberta are leading Canadian research on treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and over the next two years are setting out to reduce one particularly problematic type of therapy.

Crohn’s and Colits Canada suggests about three-quarters of patients referred to an IBD specialist are on a chronic steroid therapy.

Steroids can have harmful side effects including high blood pressure, mood swings and weight gain.

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Over the last three years, the U of C’s IBD clinic has tested three new agents now approved for treatment as an alternative to steroids.

There are five leading IBD research centres across Canada, now part of the new national network called PACE (Promoting Access and Care through Centres of Excellence).

“It gives us the opportunity to partner with other research centres and other clinical care centres to really put our arms around this tragic disease,” Dr. Remo Pannaccione, PACE lead at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine said.

Over the next two years, both the Calgary and Edmonton centres will focus on reducing chronic steroid therapy.

“Steroids are extremely difficult on the body,” Crohn’s patient Tammy Truman said. “What happens right now is that by the time a patient sees a gastro specialist, they’re already on these massive steroids and it’s already doing a lot of damage. So hopefully, with this new announcement, they won’t have to be on steroids as long. They’ll be able to come to see a specialist quicker. They’ll know there’s options for treatment other than steroids, so they won’t have to deal with the chronic steroid use and the ugly side effects that come with that.”

About 250,000 Canadians are currently living with Crohn’s and colitis.

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