Canada continues to have one of the highest rates of irritable bowel disorder in the world, according to Mina Mawani, president and chief executive officer of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.

“So right now we have about 270,000 Canadians living with Crohn’s or colitis,” she said at Benefits Canada‘s 2019 Calgary Benefits Summit at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel on May 22. “And in 2030, one per cent of the population, over 400,000 people, will be living with Crohn’s or colitis.”

The organization is often asked about the workplace accommodation options employers can implement for employees living with these diseases, noted Mawani. “We know that when there’s severe incontinence, when you’re in a flare, you have to run to the bathroom constantly. And so one of the accommodations you could do for your employee is to be able to have them, if they’re in an office-related job, close to a washroom.”

Read: A primer on treatments for inflammatory bowel disease

Another accommodation is to remove barriers to washrooms, such as requiring a key or a code to get in. “Because, as you know, it’s really quick and it’s embarrassing when you publicly soil yourself, which is what many patients come to us about because it is severe and it is very fast and it’s very urgent,” she added.

And, of course, she noted, it’s important for employers to be patient and understanding. As well, employers can considering offering work-from-home options. Mawani said employees with the diseases find these policies helpful because it allows them to be near their own bathroom.

“One of the things I’ve heard from our own employees living with Crohn’s or colitis is when they’re presenting or they’re on a telephone conference call, you have to understand there are times they will just have to leave because they have to use the bathroom.”

Read: Cost of inflammatory bowel disease ‘immeasurable’

Patient stability is an important part of keeping employees with chronic diseases in the workplace. “Biosimilars are significantly cheaper,” said Naushad Budhwani, a private insurance manager, government affairs and market access at Janssen Inc. “So why don’t they lead to significant savings? To understand this, we need to understand the diseases that biologics treat,” he added. “The one key similarity among these diseases and indications is they’re all chronic conditions. Patients and plan members that have diseases, they’re living with these for the rest of their life, barring a cure, and they will require constant treatment.”

However, if there was a product or a biosimilar that would work, and could be used for the duration of the patient’s life, there’d be significant savings, Budhwani says. “However, in most cases . . . treatment failure is a real thing. Patients don’t normally stay on one treatment for the duration of their lives. They usually fail on a number of treatments and require multiple therapies along the way.”

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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