Survey reveals interest in drug therapy for celiac disease

By Van Waffle

Summary: Many patients would consider medication as an alternative to going gluten-free for life, according to a recent study.

The Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University recruited 352 adults with the disease to survey their interest in using a pharmaceutical drug. The study also asked about individuals’ symptoms and adherence to the diet. It included a detailed questionnaire about quality of life. All but 5 percent of participants reported some symptoms of the disease, but 72 percent said they had improved on a gluten-free diet.

Conclusion: Two-thirds of respondents said they would take medication to treat celiac disease. Older patients, men, people who frequent restaurants, those concerned about their weight or dietary costs, and patients reporting a decreased quality of life were more likely to say yes.

Length of time since diagnosis, education, ongoing symptoms and success of the gluten-free diet did affect people’s interest. Patients raised concerns about cost, side effects and safety of potential drugs. The survey did not ask how much they would be willing to pay or whether they could afford it. However, the relatively high cost and low availability of gluten-free foods might lead people to consider using medication.

A limitation of this study is that the Celiac Disease Center might have recruited interviewees who were more highly educated and receptive to medical treatment. The authors suggest a drug could benefit patients in particular situations when used alongside dietary therapy.


[1] “Interest in medical therapy for celiac disease”, Tennyson CA, Simpson S, Lebwohl B, Lewis S, Green PHR, #Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology# (2013) 6(5) 358-364, doi: 10.1177/1756283X13492580.