The Cairo press conference was sponsored by the private sector pharmaceutical company Janssen and featured the participation of the IBD Patient Advocacy Association, which is the first of its kind in Egypt.
This press conference was part of the "We Love Life" campaign that has now been going on for two consecutive years.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of immune bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, highlighting the symptoms of these diseases and the importance of early diagnosis and offering guidance on how to live with them.
The awareness campaign also includes various activities on social media, which has seen considerable turnout, due in part to the participation from influencers and public figures over the past months.
So far, this campaign has reached millions of Egyptian and many people in the Arab world.
Dr. Ezzat Ali, Professor of Gastroenterology, Faculty of Medicine, at Alexandria University and president of the Egyptian Society of IBD, highlighted the major implications of the disease.
“Statistics show that approximately 36 percent of IBD patients will suffer symptoms outside the digestive system, such as infections of the skin, eyes and joints, at least once during their lifetime.
“For Crohn's disease, delayed diagnosis is associated with an increased risk of complications. Studies have shown that 70 percent of Crohn's patients have a delay in their diagnosis for more than a year.”
“In addition, it is estimated that more than 20 percent of Crohn's patients will need surgery within five years of diagnosis, and nearly 40 percent will need surgery within 10 years,” he stressed.
According to WHO statistics, cases that need surgery have a very high cost of care compared to those who do not, noting that surgery in Crohn's disease is not a definitive solution to treatment and has negative consequences.
As for ulcerative colitis patients, about 20 percent of patients need surgical removal of the colon in the case of late diagnosis or failure to receive appropriate treatment in a timely manner.
The panel of professors emphasised the necessity of early diagnosis and treatment – within 18 months of diagnosis – as this can mitigate bowel damage and may restore normal function before infection and reduces the need for intervention.
Early detection also helps prevent complications from the disease such as hemorrhoids and tumors.
Dr. Hussein El-Amin, professor of gastroenterology and president of the Egyptian Society of Immune Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, said “The disease strongly affects the patient’s productive capacity because of the symptoms they suffer from.”
He added that patients lose about 22 hours of work each month. As for the psychological impact, patients suffer from persistent depression and anxiety, and 46 percent of them suffer severe fatigue as a result of the disease.
Therefore, global statistics confirm that controlling the disease and treating it early and for an appropriate period reduces the total indirect cost of the disease by 60 percent.
The panel recommended that the government provides the latest biological drug treatment as part of the health Insurance.
Professor Marwa Radwan, advocate for IBD patients in Egypt, said that the association was established to convey the voice of patients to the health system and demand their rights.
Professor Marwa Radwan added, "The association believes that providing patients with information about their disease is very important.
“It also enables patients to monitor their health status and creates awareness of how to judge the success or failure of any of the treatments."
The doctors hailed the role of the Egyptian IBD Society and the association for their effective and influential role in improving the efficiency of doctors and spreading awareness about the disease, and also thanked Janssen Egypt for sponsoring awareness campaigns and various ongoing activities that are in the interest of the Egyptian patient.”
For her part, Dr. Heba Hussein, regional director of medical affairs for Janssen in Egypt, North East Africa and Jordan praised the attention given by the state and its health systems in working tirelessly with patients with chronic immune diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, despite the pressures that the coronavirus pandemic has placed on the health system in Egypt.
She also praised the efforts of the Comprehensive Health Insurance Authority, which has made a promising and strong start in Port Said, Luxor and other governorates.