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Gastroenterology Conference Spotlights Obesity

Monday 19 November 2007

Gastroenterology Conference Spotlights Obesity Epidemic, Liver Disease and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

This week (21-23 November) the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology will hold its Annual Scientific Meeting at the Christchurch Convention Centre. Over 400 delegates including Gastroenterologists, Surgeons and Nurses from New Zealand, Australia and further afield will learn about recent advances in patient care and research concerning digestive health.

Major topics for this year’s meeting include the surgical treatment of obesity, an epidemic sweeping the western world that is associated with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and premature death. Professor Paul O’Brien, Director, Centre of Obesity Research and Education, Monash University, Melbourne, will present his findings of the beneficial effects of keyhole stomach surgery on over 1000 obese patients.

Professor Geoff Farrell from Canberra, Australia will speak on the toxic effects on the liver of medications, such as antibiotics. Dr Simon Travis from Oxford, UK will discuss the management of inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Keyhole surgery leads to sustained weight loss

Professor Paul O’Brien, Director, Centre of Obesity Research and Education, Monash University, Melbourne, is one of the most experienced surgeons worldwide who performs keyhole surgery as a treatment for obesity. By using a laparoscopic technique, Professor O’Brien places an inflatable band around the stomach, leading to a reduction in the stomach’s capacity and reducing appetite.

Obesity is one of the biggest health concerns facing the western world. In NZ, almost half of the adult population is obese or overweight. Obesity is also an emerging problem for children and leads to increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, leading to reduced life expectancy. Drug and diet treatments for obesity can be effective in the short term, but weight often returns in the long term. Professor O’Brien is not only one of the most experienced Bariatric Surgeons in the world but he and his research group have performed ground-breaking research into the benefits and safety of this approach.

While it is widely recognised that surgery is an effective means of controlling weight and the associated medical complications, access to such surgery in New Zealand is limited with only a handful of these procedures being offered in the public sector each year. This has led to obese patients being forced to wait long periods while their health deteriorates or having to sell their house, in some cases, to finance surgery in the private sector.

Dr Robyn Toomath, Wellington Endocrinologist and Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokesperson will also be speaking at the conference.

To find out more about Obesity and the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting, or to arrange an interview with Professor O’Brien or Dr Toomath, visit the website or contact Dr Richard Gearry 0272127485 on Friday 23 November.

Think twice before asking your doctor for antibiotics

Professor Geoff Farrell, Director Gastroenterology & Hepatology Unit, The Canberra Hospital and Professor of Hepatic Medicine Australian National University, Canberra, Australia will speak on the toxic effects of drugs on the liver on Thursday 22 November. Professor Farrell, who wrote the textbook on the toxic effects of drugs on the liver, is an international expert on liver disease and will also be addressing the conference on the treatment of Hepatitis B virus.

Drugs are a common cause of short term liver problems and antibiotics are amongst the more common drugs that may lead to jaundice (yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes). General Practitioners are aware of this and other side effects from antibiotics and, therefore, think carefully about potential side effects of these and other drugs before prescribing them. This is despite many patients insisting on antibiotics when they are not indicated.

To find out more about Drugs and the Liver and the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting, or to arrange an interview with Professor Farrell, visit the website

Biological drugs for inflammatory bowel disease – are New Zealand patients getting a fair go?

Dr Simon Travis, Director of Gastroenterology from The John Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK will be addressing the conference on aspects of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treatment. IBD comprises Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and local research has shown that almost 2000 Cantabrians are affected leading to episodes of diarrhoea, rectal bleeding and abdominal pain. Most patients are diagnosed between 15 and 35 years of age and often require major surgery, face time away from work and endure reduced quality of life.

New drugs have been developed that improve quality of life, reducing the need for surgery and other drugs but access to these drugs is limited in New Zealand due to their cost. Subsequently, patients in New Zealand may receive inferior treatment for this condition compared to most western countries. Furthermore, the use of these drugs differs around the country suggesting inequalities of access.

To find out more about IBD and access to biological drugs and the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting, or to arrange an interview with Dr Simon Travis or Dr Richard Gearry, visit the website or contact Dr Richard Gearry 0272127485 on Wednesday 23 November.


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