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World J Gastroenterol. 2008 May 14;14(18):2851-7.

N-acetyl-L-cysteine combined with mesalamine in the treatment of ulcerative colitis: randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study.

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  • 1Unidad de Toxicologia Molecular Hepatica, Department de Bioquimica & Biologia Molecular, Universidad de Alcala, E-28871, Alcala de Henares, Spain.



To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of oral N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) co-administration with mesalamine in ulcerative colitis (UC) patients.


Thirty seven patients with mild to moderate UC were randomized to receive a four-wk course of oral mesalamine (2.4 g/d) plus N-acetyl-L-cysteine (0.8 g/d) (group A) or mesalamine plus placebo (group B). Patients were monitored using the Modified Truelove-Witts Severity Index (MTWSI). The primary endpoint was clinical remission (MTWSI < or = 2) at 4 wk. Secondary endpoints were clinical response (defined as a reduction from baseline in the MTWSI of > or = 2 points) and drug safety. The serum TNF-alpha, interleukin-6, interleukin-8 and MCP-1 were evaluated at baseline and at 4 wk of treatment.


Analysis per-protocol criteria showed clinical remission rates of 63% and 50% after 4 wk treatment with mesalamine plus N-acetyl-L-cysteine (group A) and mesalamine plus placebo (group B) respectively (OR = 1.71; 95% CI: 0.46 to 6.36; P = 0.19; NNT = 7.7). Analysis of variance (ANOVA) of data indicated a significant reduction of MTWSI in group A (P = 0.046) with respect to basal condition without significant changes in the group B (P = 0.735) during treatment. Clinical responses were 66% (group A) vs 44% (group B) after 4 wk of treatment (OR = 2.5; 95% CI: 0.64 to 9.65; P = 0.11; NNT = 4.5). Clinical improvement in group A correlated with a decrease of IL-8 and MCP-1. Rates of adverse events did not differ significantly between both groups.


In group A (oral NAC combined with mesalamine) contrarily to group B (mesalamine alone), the clinical improvement correlates with a decrease of chemokines such as MCP-1 and IL-8. NAC addition not produced any side effects.

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