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Dig Dis Sci. 2006 Sep;51(9):1516-24. Epub 2006 Aug 22.

Long-term effectiveness of azathioprine in IBD beyond 4 years: a European multicenter study in 1176 patients.

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  • 1First Department of Medicine, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany.


In Crohn's disease the optimal duration of azathioprine treatment is still controversial and for ulcerative colitis only limited data are available to support its efficacy. Charts of 1176 patients with IBD from 16 European centers were analyzed. Flare incidences and steroid dosages were assessed for the time before and during treatment and after discontinuation. Within the first 4 years, azathioprine suppressed flare incidence and steroid consumption in both diseases (P < 0.001). While in CD discontinuation after 3-4 years did not lead to reactivation, this was the case in UC. However, continuation beyond 4 years further improved clinical activity in CD and steroid requirement in both diseases (P < 0.001). Discontinuation of azathioprine may thus be considered after 3-4 years in CD patients in complete remission without steroid requirement. In all other CD patients and for UC patients in general, continuation seems beneficial. These results support a novel differential algorithm for long-term azathioprine therapy in IBD.

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