Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an idiopathic autoimmune condition which typically presents in two forms: Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Affecting more than 10 million people worldwide, the prevalence of IBD is believed to be the highest in the Western world. Estimates reveal, however, that the incidence of UC and CD is approximately 2.33 and 1.46 per 100,000 persons per year in the Arab world, with rates in the Middle East rising steadily in recent years, with prevalence expected to rise 2.3-fold between 2020 to 2035. The rising incidence will have significant repercussions on patients and healthcare systems if unchecked and not managed in early stages of the disease.
Commonly diagnosed among patients between 15 and 40 years of age, symptoms of IBD include fatigue, abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements and weight loss, and are often unpredictable, making disease management challenging and adding to the cost burden and the rate of healthcare services utilisation. A life-long and often debilitating condition, patients often suffer both physically and mentally. Feelings of shame, isolation, and body dissatisfaction, which compromise psychosocial functioning, are often reported because of the disease. IBD patients also frequently present with depression and anxiety, though whether these are a consequence of the disease or an active contributor to the disease remains a point of discussion.
Rodrigo Rodriguez, General Manager, Takeda Middle East
Adversely affecting quality of life, IBD impacts patients’ ability to perform daily routines, which may lead to frequent sick-leave and unemployment, resulting in workplace productivity losses. It also increases their use of healthcare services, including outpatient clinics and emergency room visits, inpatient hospital admissions, ambulatory procedures, surgeries, and pharmacological treatment, resulting in higher healthcare costs which can leave some patients with out-of-pocket expenditures.
Overall, the cost of care for IBD have increased in the last five years, driven by specific therapeutics and disease characteristics. While exact figures are hard to come by for the region, some stats are indicative of the cost to healthcare systems. A US-based study, for example, suggests that on a per-annual basis, patients with IBD incur more than a three-fold higher cost of care compared with non-IBD controls. In treating IBD, biologics are extensively used in the diseases’ management, particularly CD, their cost is significantly higher than non-biologics. In KSA, a study placed the total costs of UC and CD management over five years at SAR 235.9 million and SAR 430.6 million based on a prevalence of 0.24 per cent and 0.2 per cent, respectively.
As a result of the growing incidence and cost burden of IBD, there is an urgent need to enhance IBD treatment by providing education, training, and knowledge-sharing platforms so that healthcare practitioners and facilities are better equipped to support patient needs. Healthcare systems committed to reducing the cost to both patients and society must focus on identifying how existing healthcare resources can be better optimized for IBD treatment, establishing modern diagnosis methods, supporting education, and expanding treatment access. To realize this goal, researchers, patient groups, healthcare providers and other stakeholders must collaborate on standardizing education and identifying solutions to meet patient needs while advancing cutting-edge scientific research and clinical medicine. These steps can also support better disease management so that IBD patients can realize a healthier and brighter future.References available on request