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Role of mesalazine in acute and long-term treatment of ulcerative colitis and its complications.

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  • 1Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn, 55905, USA.



Sulfasalazine, consisting of 5-aminosalicylic acid bound to sulfapyridine by a diazo bond, was first used for treatment of ulcerative colitis in the early 1940s and later found effective in placebo-controlled trials for acute disease and for long-term maintenance of remission. Later studies found that the active moiety is 5-ASA (mesalazine, mesalamine) and the sulfapyridine moiety acts as a carrier molecule but causes many of the symptomatic adverse reactions.


Review of the literature.


The finding that 5-ASA in the active motility led to the development of mesalazine prodrugs, olsalazine (Dipentum) and balsalazide (Colazide, Colazal), and targeted release mesalazine preparations, such as Asacol, Pentasa, and Salofalk, as well as enemas and suppository preparations for distal disease. Most patients with adverse effects from sulfasalazine will tolerate mesalazine. Mesalazine has been shown equivalent or superior to sulfasalazine, and superior to placebo, with a dose-response benefit, in inducing remission of acute disease. and comparable to sulfasalazine and superior to placebo for long-term maintenance of remission. Better tolerance of mesalazine and the ability to use higher doses favor its use in patients intolerant of sulfasalazine and in patients failing to respond to usual doses of sulfasalazine. Adverse effects from mesalazine are uncommon, but include idiosyncratic worsening of the colitis symptoms and renal toxicity. Mesalazine is safe to use during pregnancy and for nursing mothers. As maintenance therapy, mesalazine may reduce the risk of developing colorectal carcinoma.


Mesalazine represents effective and well-tolerated first-line therapy for mildly to moderately acute disease as well as for the long-term maintenance treatment in the patient with ulcerative colitis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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