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Coeliac Disease

Volume 459: debated on Tuesday 1 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what support her Department has provided for research into coeliac disease in each of the last three years. (134394)

Over the last 10 years, the main part of the Department’s total expenditure on health research has been devolved to and managed by national health service organisations. Details of individual NHS supported research projects including a substantial number concerned with coeliac disease are available on the national research register at:

www.dh.gov.uk/research

The Department funds research to support policy and to provide the evidence needed to underpin quality improvement and service development in the NHS and through its Health Technology Assessment Programme has funded research into coeliac disease as part of a study concerned primarily with the use of cognitive behavioural therapy in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome.

The Hammersmith and St. Mary’s and Imperial College Biomedical Research Centre formed as part of the implementation of the Government’s research strategy “Best Research for Best Health” proposes to undertake research on the prevalence of coeliac disease and its histological definition as part of its hepatology and gastroenterology research theme.

In addition, the Food Standards Authority has commissioned a systematic review of the literature on thresholds for reactivity to gluten that will lead to benefits for people who need to follow a gluten free diet.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent progress has been made in improving the (a) diagnosis and (b) treatment of coeliac disease. (134395)

Diagnosis of coeliac disease can be difficult for general practitioners as the symptoms are common to many other conditions. Improvements in diagnosis have therefore concentrated on raising awareness of this condition among health professionals and the general public. The PRODIGY website www.prodigy.nhs.uk contains specific information useful for health professionals and people who have been newly diagnosed with the disease.

There is no specific treatment for those living with coeliac disease. However, symptoms can be kept under control with a strict gluten-free diet. Most people with coeliac disease receive advice from their general practitioner (GP) on self-management of their condition, and specifically on the exclusion of foods containing gluten from their diet. A wide range of gluten-free foods are available on national health service prescription and these may be prescribed where a GP considers it necessary to ensure effective self-management of the condition.