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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)


Goals of treatment

Because the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can also happen outside of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the approach to treating IBD is complex.

The goal of treatment is to help you feel your best. The first step in helping you feel your best is to work towards reducing your symptoms and the inflammation in your GI tract, which is usually done with medicines.

Treatment team

Your disease will be managed primarily by your gastroenterologist (specialists who work with the esophagus, stomach, intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts) with support from your primary healthcare provider. They will work with you to find the best ways to manage your symptoms and IBD, including what medicines or treatments are right for you.

You may also have access to or want to involve nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists, psychologists, or other healthcare providers in your care. Talk to your gastroenterologist about connecting with other healthcare providers or call Health Link at 811.

Your pharmacist is another important part of your healthcare team. Pharmacists can often help you answer questions you may have about your medicines.

If you are being treated with an intravenous (I.V.) biologic or biosimilar, you may also have access to nurses at your infusion clinic. They can help you answer questions about your infusion clinic appointments and your biologic or biosimilar.

Insurance and drug coverage

The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (AHCIP) does not cover the cost of prescription drugs provided in non-hospital settings. This means that much of the cost of IBD medicines is not covered under AHCIP.

IBD medicines, particularly biotherapies, can be expensive without extra insurance. You may already have access to private insurance through your job, your parent or guardian’s job, or your partner’s job. You can also buy your own private insurance.

If you already have private insurance, it is important that you understand what costs you are covered for and what costs you are not covered for. To do this, contact the insurance provider that manages your private insurance plan.

If you do not have access to a private insurance plan, the Government of Alberta offers several drug coverage and health benefit programs that you may qualify for. A common drug coverage program is the Non-Group Coverage program.

If you have concerns about the cost of your IBD medicines, talk to your healthcare team as early as possible so they can connect you with the appropriate resources (some pharmaceutical companies, for example, may have support programs that your gastroenterologist can connect you with). For more advice, visit reducing medication costs.

Preparing for your appointments

It is important to prepare for appointments with your healthcare provider to make sure that you are able to discuss any new information with them.

Tracking your symptoms is a good start, but there may be other things you want to discuss as well. Other things to discuss at your follow-up appointments might include:

  • issues with your medicines or treatments
  • other medical conditions you have been diagnosed with
  • any complications you think you may be experiencing

There are many health tracking forms and checklists that you may find helpful, including a follow-up appointment form​. ​​

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