Inflammatory Bowel Disease (cont.)
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Different groups of drugs are used for the treatment of persons with inflammatory bowel disease. These include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immune modifiers, anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) agents, and antibiotics.
- Aminosalicylates are aspirinlike anti-inflammatory drugs. There are5 aminosalicylate preparations available for use in the US: sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), mesalamine (Asacol, Pentasa),olsalazine (Dipentum), and balsalazide (Colazal).
- These drugs can be given either orally or rectally (enema, suppository formulations). They are useful both for treating flare-ups of the IBD and the maintenance of remission.
- Corticosteroids are rapid-acting anti-inflammatory agents. The indication for use inIBD is for acute flare-ups of the disease only. There is no role for corticosteroids in the maintenance
- Corticosteroids may be administered by a variety of routes, depending upon the location and severity of disease; they may be administered intravenously (methylprednisolone, hydrocortisone) in the hospital, orally (prednisone, prednisolone, budesonide, dexamethasone), or rectally (enema, suppository, foam preparations).
- Corticosteroids tend to provide rapid relief of symptoms as well as a significant decrease in inflammation, but their side effects limit their use (particularly longer-term use). The consensus
for treatment with corticosteroids is that they should be tapered as soon as possible.
- Immune modifiers include 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP, Purinethol) and azathioprine (Imuran). Immune modifiers may work by causing a reduction in
the lymphocyte count (a type of white blood cell). Their onset of action is relatively slow (typically 2-3 months).
- They are used in selected persons with IBD when aminosalicylates and corticosteroids are either ineffective or only partially effective. They are useful in reducing or eliminating some persons'
dependence on corticosteroids.
- Immune modifiers may also be helpful in maintaining remission in some persons with refractory ulcerative colitis (persons who do not respond
to standard medications).
- They are also used as primary treatment of fistulae and the maintenance of remission in persons who cannot tolerate aminosalicylates.
- If you are taking immune modifiers, your blood cell count will be monitoredon a regular basisbecause the immune modifiers can cause a significant reduction in the number of white
blood cells, predisposing you to serious infections.
- Infliximab (Remicade) is an anti-TNF agent. TNF is produced by white blood cells and is believed to be responsible for promoting the tissue damage noted in persons with Crohn's disease.
Infliximab acts by binding to TNF, thereby inhibiting its effects on the tissues.
- It is approved by the FDA for the treatment of persons with moderate-to-severe Crohn's disease who have had an inadequate response to standard medications. In such persons, a response rate of
80% and a remission rate of 50% have been reported.
- Infliximab is also used for the treatment of fistulae, a complication of Crohn's disease. Closure of fistulae has been reported in 68% of persons treated with infliximab.
- Infliximab must be given intravenously. It is very expensive, so insurance coverage may play a factor in the decision to use this drug.
- Metronidazole and ciprofloxacin are the most commonly used antibiotics in persons with
- Antibiotics are used sparingly in persons with ulcerative colitis because they have an increased risk of developing antibiotic-associated pseudomembranous colitis (a type of infectious diarrhea).
- In persons with Crohn's disease, antibiotics are used for the treatment of complications (perianal disease, fistulae, inflammatory mass).
Symptomatic treatments: You may be given antidiarrheal agents, antispasmodics, and acid suppressants for symptomatic relief.
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