Vedolizumab, an intravenous antibody medication, offers new hope for the approximately four million people who suffer from the auto-immune diseases, say researchers who led two clinical trials, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The treatment resulted in remission and allowed patients to stop taking prednisone, a drug with ample side effects used to treat both diseases.
"The two trials showed highly encouraging results for patients suffering from moderate to severe Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis when conventional therapy such as steroids, immune suppressive drugs and other drugs failed," said William Sandborn of the UC San Diego School of Medicine, who led the Crohn's study.
"These latest findings will potentially lead to a new drug therapy that will improve a patient's overall lifestyle," Sandborn said.
What is vedolizumab?
Vedolizumab, created by Japan's Takeda laboratory, blocks immune system cells that release proteins called cytokines that trigger inflammation, causing diarrhoea and tissue damage in the small intestine and colon.
The medication could help patients avoid the weight gain, nausea and headaches associated with other treatments for the diseases.
Patients could also forgo the steroids and immunosuppressive medication that put them at risk for infection.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, intestinal bleeding and weight loss.
In severe cases, bowel obstruction, colon cancer, malnutrition and abscesses that necessitate removal of part of the bowel and colon can occur.
Clinical trials in 34 countries followed 895 patients with ulcerative colitis and 1 115 patients with Crohn's disease, between the age of 18 and 80.
Patients were treated for a year and saw effects after six weeks.
Takeda, which funded the clinical trials, has asked for a green light from US and European drug regulators to allow vedolizumab to be sold on the market.