Understanding Your IBD Treatment Options: Exploring Subcutaneous Injections

SubQ injectionMolly O’Donoghue’s journey with IBD began when she noticed blood in her stool. Initially, the now 21-year-old felt embarrassed about discussing her symptoms, but eventually, she couldn’t ignore the decline in her health. Once an active tennis player and runner, she found herself too fatigued to even climb a flight of stairs.


After months of ignoring her symptoms, concerned family and friends finally urged her to seek medical attention. This led to a lengthy hospital stay and eventual diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. The road post-diagnosis was filled with various medications, initially consisting of a challenging regimen of 10 daily tablets.


Molly’s treatment options improved when she started taking a biologic that was administered via intravenous infusion. For Molly, there was a drawback: it required injections at a hospital every six to eight weeks, taking several hours for infusion time and travel since home infusions weren’t available. Molly found this inconvenient despite the effectiveness of the IV treatment in managing her symptoms. 


When Molly turned 18, she discussed the available options with her doctor including subcutaneous injections which could be self-administered every two weeks. This treatment not only effectively managed her symptoms, but Molly felt empowered to administer her medication herself from the comfort of her own home, transforming her experience with IBD therapy. Today, Molly is effectively managing her IBD as she pursues her university education and travels around the world.


Choosing the right treatment is an important part of the shared decision-making discussion with a doctor, and Molly’s story underscores the importance of sharing personal details and preferences along with any challenges to staying on medication. For some, injections are an effective choice, while others may prefer infusions. It has been more than a year since her last flare, and Molly celebrates her newfound freedom, advocating for breaking the stigma surrounding invisible illnesses and urging others to seek help when needed.


IBD medications can be taken in various ways, through pill form, infused, auto injected, or other forms. For Molly, auto-injections were the best method. Talk to your doctor about finding the right method for you.


History of Infusion Therapy for IBD


The journey of infusion therapy for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treatment has seen significant progress over the years. Initially, infusions were used in cases where rapid and high doses of medication were necessary, or when oral medications weren’t effective due to the harsh gastrointestinal environment.


A class of therapy called biologics may be prescribed if you haven’t responded well to other IBD treatments like aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, or immunomodulators. Biologics work by targeting specific proteins made by the immune system that are involved in causing inflammation. They can be given by intravenous (IV) infusion or subcutaneous (SQ or Sub-Q) injection.


Two decades ago, biologics like infliximab and adalimumab were among the first used for IBD treatment, targeting the immune system molecule TNF-alpha. Several classes of biologics are available to treat IBD in addition to TNF-alpha blockers, including integrin blockers and interleukin blockers.



What Are Subcutaneous Injections for IBD?


A subcutaneous injection delivers medication just beneath the skin. Certain biologic medications may be available as infusions through the veins, or as subcutaneous injections. Subcutaneous injections may be self-administered.  


To learn more about these medication options, visit the Foundation’s IBD Medication Guide.


Is a Subcutaneous Injection Right for You?

When considering subcutaneous injections for IBD treatment, it’s essential to discuss with your healthcare provider whether this method is suitable for you. Factors like disease severity, patient preference, and insurance coverage may influence the decision. Additionally, you should discuss injection techniques and equipment and maintain open communication with your doctor regarding any concerns or side effects.


Contact the IBD Help Center if you have questions about infusions.


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