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Fast track development for Crohn's Disease Drug
Scientist
Scientists are confident new Crohn's disease drug will be effective
A new drug for the chronic bowel disorder Crohn's disease has been put on a fast track development programme by the US authorities.

The US Food and Drug Administration acted after highly successful preliminary trials of the drug, developed by a Berkshire biotechnology company.

With FDA backing, the drug could be launched by the end of the year 2000.

The drug has been produced from mouse antibodies that have been modified to work in humans.

Harmful side effects

Crohn's is currently treated with surgery and steroids, which can have harmful side effects such as severe weight gain and damage to internal organs.

It is hoped that the antibodies will be able to reduce patients' dependence on steroids, particularly when the disease flares up.

The drug has been in development at Celltech's Slough laboratories for three years.

Finance director Peter Allen said there were 400,000 Crohn's sufferers in the US and Europe.

He said: "Crohn's is a very painful disease and while it is not fatal, it is certainly debilitating for sufferers."

Celltech is in talks with other major drugs companies to develop the antibodies further.

US company Centocor is due to market an alternative Crohn's drug, Remicade, later this year.

However, Celltech believe their product will have less side effects.

The symptoms of Crohn's Disease can often be vague and difficult to identify.

Chronic diarrhoea

They can involve chronic diarrhoea and abdominal pain, fever, lack of appetite, weight loss and a feeling of fullness in the gut. Children with the disease sometimes suffer growth retardation.

People with the disease may develop bowel obstructions, abscesses and intestinal bleeding linked to rupture of the bowel. A small proportion may go on to develop cancer of the small bowel.

Ulcer tracts in the gut which are caused by the disease can also burrow into surrounding organs, including the gall bladder, the liver and skin, causing infections.

The government launched a nationwide survey into milk quality last month following fears that it could be carrying a bacteria linked to Crohn's disease.

See also:

21 Apr 99 | Medical notes
11 Aug 98 | Health
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