Treatment changes lives for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Stories Medicines

In December 2022, Pharmac – Te Pātaka Whaioranga announced funding of ustekinumab (branded as Stelara) a medicine which can slow down, or even lead to remission, for people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Lisa smiles at the camera. She is leaning on a wall with a doorway in the background..
Crohn’s and Colitis NZ Board Member Lisa Clough

For Crohn’s and Colitis NZ Board Member Lisa Clough, that news was a welcome relief to what had been years of pain.

“I thought I was going to lose part of my bowel because it got so bad, and there was nothing we could do,” starts Clough. “Then it was announced that Pharmac would be funding Stelara. And it has been life changing.”

Clough was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the digestive tract, in 2013. 

“It took a long time to diagnose me with Crohn’s Disease. So, by the time they did, I was in a really bad state. 

“I straight away went onto infliximab (Remicade), and my body rejected it pretty early on. I was then on Adalimumab (Humira) and within 5 years my body created antibodies. I stayed on it, but it wasn’t really doing a lot and my condition started getting a whole lot worse.

“It was debilitating. I got things like abscesses – perianal abscesses – which are extremely painful. I think once I had 8 at one stage. There was 18 months where it would hurt to stand up, sit down, get into the car, and go to the toilet.

“I’d also needed an iron infusion every 6 months, because my bowel was so ulcerated it was bleeding. I’d get so anaemic I couldn’t get out of bed. 

“In the last ten years, I’ve had 17 surgeries. And there has been at least two occasions where I’ve been in hospital for more than a week.”

Clough had her first Stelara infusion in April 2023.

“Since then, I haven’t had anymore abscesses. And I haven’t needed to be in hospital. My Crohn’s Disease has been moderate to severe since I was diagnosed. I had bloods done just before Christmas, and it looks like I’m in remission.

“With Stelara – I’m able to do things I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I’m not constantly in pain, I can use the toilet normally.

“This is the best I’ve felt since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The best I’ve felt in 13 years.”