CROHN’S AND COLITIS AWARENESS WEEK HOUSE BILL 260 - SPONSOR TESTIMONY REP. LOUIS W. BLESSING III Chair Gonzales, Vice Chair Huffman, and Ranking Member Antonio, and members of the House Health and Aging Committee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to give sponsor testimony on House Bill 260. This bill seeks to create Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week during the first week of December to raise awareness for these diseases. Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two different types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that are currently on the rise today. Crohn’s and Colitis both effect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract by causing inflammation, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and intestinal bleeding to name a few symptoms. Approximately 1.6 million Americans have some form of IBD, roughly 700,000 have Colitis, and roughly 700,000 have Crohn’s. There are as many as 70,000 new cases in the United States each year. Both diseases effect men and women equally. Both diseases have undetermined causes. While this may be the case, it is widely accepted that there are autoimmune and genetic components to them. Both diseases have a tendency to run in families; however it is not uncommon for one family member to have one disease while another family member has the other. It is also possible to have both diseases as they are similar but affect the GI tract differently. Crohn’s and Colitis is typically diagnosed between the ages of 1535, while diagnosis later in life is generally due to going undiagnosed or being misdiagnosed. In recent years, there have been a growing number of children diagnosed with an estimated 80,000 children living with one of these diseases. Crohn’s and Colitis is most prevalent in those from developed countries as well as those with Eastern European decent. However, there is an increasing trend towards any and all ethnicities being affected. Both diseases are triggered by “infections” assumed in the GI tract with the inability to turn off the autoimmune response. Over time, the immune system continuously attacks the tissue around the “infection” which causes chronic inflammation, ulceration, and thickening of the intestinal wall leading to and causing symptoms. With Crohn’s Disease, the entirety of the GI tract has the potential to be effected by the disease, including all layers of the differing tissues. Crohn’s disease is usually found in patches. Colitis on the other hand only affects the innermost lining of the colon however, the entire colon is affected. Treatment options for those affected are only targeted to treat their symptoms. The most common types of treatments are: corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antibiotics, biologic therapies and surgery. Surgery often occurs for about 70% of those affected with the possibility of additional surgeries reoccurring for about 30%. It is important to note that there is no cure as well as no medication specifically targeted towards these diseases. Often times the medications used to treat these diseases is designed for other medical conditions. Often time’s patients take anti-inflammatory medications designed for rheumatoid arthritis, or immunomodulators designed as chemotherapies for cancer patients. My aide, Kelsey, is one of the many individuals that suffer from Crohn’s disease. She was diagnosed at the age of 23, and has been on the Crohn’s disease rollercoaster for the past three years. She has had several hospital visits due to abscesses found near the affected area of her GI tract. These visits usually resulted in intense rounds of antibiotics and a corticosteroid. A little over a year after she was diagnosed, she had to under go emergency surgery to remove about a foot of her intestine, which resulted in a temporary ileostomy bag which was reversed three months later. She has been on two different types of biologics, Remicaid and Humira, as well as an immunodialator. Shorty before her surgery, she had to stop Remicaid treatments because they were not effective, which is consistent of the trial and error that is common due to the nature of the disease. She recently had a reduction in medication and now only takes Humira. Other aspects of these diseases that she has experienced range from intense weight gain and weight loss, dietary restrictions to help manage the disease, to fatigue and constant stomach pains. Crohn’s and Colitis affect many more young people than are assumed. This is not the older person’s disease that it is often labeled as. We need to remove this stigma so that we can raise awareness for what the disease really is as it is much more than a bowel disease. This is a chronic disease that a portion of our population has to live with and fight everyday, but it goes under the radar due to it being described as an “invisible illness.” That does not make people lazy, or antisocial or any of the other labels that they get. It makes them fighters for their health so they can go on and do every day things when they can. Thank you for allowing me to give sponsor testimony on House Bill 260. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.