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Gastroenterology. 1999 Sep;117(3):527-35.

Lack of effect of intravenous administration on time to respond to azathioprine for steroid-treated Crohn's disease. North American Azathioprine Study Group.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.



Azathioprine is effective for Crohn's disease but acts slowly. A loading dose may decrease the time to response.


A placebo-controlled study was conducted in patients with active Crohn's disease despite prednisone treatment. Patients were randomized to a 36-hour infusion of azathioprine, 40 mg/kg (51 patients), or placebo (45 patients) followed by oral azathioprine, 2 mg/kg, for 16 weeks. Prednisone was tapered over 5 weeks. The primary outcome measure was complete remission at week 8, defined by discontinuation of prednisone and a Crohn's Disease Activity Index of </=150 points. Erythrocyte concentrations of the azathioprine active metabolite, 6-thioguanine nucleotide, were measured.


At week 8, 13 patients (25%) were in complete remission in the azathioprine-loaded group compared with 11 patients (24%) in the placebo group. The frequency of complete remission did not increase after 8 weeks in either group. Both groups achieved steady state of 6-thioguanine nucleotide by week 2, and no differences were found in mean concentrations between the groups. There were no significant differences in the frequency of adverse events between the groups.


A loading dose does not decrease the time to response in patients with steroid-treated Crohn's disease beginning azathioprine therapy. Steady state of erythrocyte 6-thioguanine nucleotide and complete response occurred earlier than previously reported.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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