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Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Jul;97(7):1607-17.

Corticosteroid-sparing treatments in patients with Crohn's disease.

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Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Conventional corticosteroid therapy effectively induces remission of Crohn's disease (CD) across a range of disease severity. However, alternative treatments are needed for patients with disease unresponsive to corticosteroids, patients requiring maintenance therapy (for which corticosteroids are ineffective), corticosteroid-dependent patients, and patients with corticosteroid-related toxicities. Thus, corticosteroid-sparing effects are an important clinical endpoint for treatments of CD. Budesonide offers comparable efficacy with less short-term toxicity than conventional corticosteroids (prednisone, prednisolone); this agent has also demonstrated short-term remission maintenance efficacy, while potentially enabling withdrawal of more toxic corticosteroids in corticosteroid-dependent patients. However, budesonide has not shown long-term maintenance benefit in clinical studies, and the risk for and implications of budesonide dependency need further evaluation. The immunomodulators, azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine, are most effective for maintenance of remission in quiescent disease, but may be useful in conjunction with other therapies in inducing remission in active CD; methotrexate may be considered an alternative because of its efficacy in inducing and maintaining remission. In clinical trials, treatment with azathioprine/6-methotrexate has enabled corticosteroid withdrawal in 55% of patients, and methotrexate, in 39% of patients with corticosteroid-dependent CD, while maintaining clinical response. Monitoring for infrequent hematological or hepatic toxicity is recommended during use of these immunomodulators. Infliximab is effective for induction and maintenance of remission in patients with refractory CD participating in randomized placebo-controlled studies and, in open-label experience, has enabled corticosteroid withdrawal in approximately three quarters of patients. This biological agent is generally well tolerated. Infusion reactions are the most commonly occurring side effects; such reactions may require adjustment of infusion rate and/or treatment with an antihistamine or acetaminophen. The investigational biological agent CDP-571 has also shown corticosteroid-sparing efficacy in patients with CD. In conclusion, recent research has helped identify corticosteroid-sparing treatments that can provide benefit in patients with corticosteroid-dependent and/or corticosteroid-refractory CD or patients at risk for corticosteroid-induced toxicities.

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