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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC Study Finds Diet as Effective and Less Expensive Than Drugs in Treating Esophageal Inflammation

Researchers in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s schools of medicine and public health have completed a study comparing two types of treatment for an esophageal disorder that makes swallowing and digesting food difficult.


[Photo: Dr. Daniel Erim (left) and Dr. Stephanie Wheeler]

The study, published online Dec. 7 in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, compares cost and effectiveness of two standard courses of treatment for eosinophilic esophagitis, a condition in which inflamed esophageal tissue leads to a person’s difficulty in swallowing solid foods.

A chronic immune system disease, the disorder may be caused by foods or other allergens or by acid reflux. Typical first-approach therapies include a process of eliminating foods that may be causing allergic reactions and the use of topical corticosteroids to decrease inflammation.

In their review of patients’ treatments, the authors found that a six-food elimination diet (SFED) was equally effective at treating the inflammation as topical fluticasone – and significantly less expensive ($5,719.72 per person, as opposed to $9,261.58 for the drug). SFED also was more effective and less expensive than the topical drug budesonide.

“We are excited about this opportunity to contribute to the growing body of knowledge on caring for patients with eosinophilic esophagitis,” said Dr. Daniel Erim, doctoral student in health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, “and we wish to encourage more research in this regard.”

In addition to Dr. Erim, co-authors of the article include, from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Ms. Sarah H. Palmer, health policy and management alumna, and Dr. Stephanie Wheeler, associate professor of health policy and management; and from the UNC School of Medicine, Dr. Cary Cotton, resident in internal medicine, Dr. Nicholas Shaheen, distinguished professor of gastroenterology and adjunct professor of epidemiology in the Gillings School, Dr. Evan Dellon, associate professor of gastroenterology in the medical school and adjunct associate professor of epidemiology in the Gillings School, and gastroenterology fellows Dr. Swathi Eluri, Dr. Daniel Green, Dr. Asher Wolf and Dr. Thomas Runge.

Grant support for the research was provided by National Institutes of Public Health awards.

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