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Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2013 Jun;19(7):1397-403. doi: 10.1097/MIB.0b013e318281337d.

Step up versus early biologic therapy for Crohn's disease in clinical practice.

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Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Recent studies have demonstrated superior outcomes of early biologic therapy. Our purpose was to evaluate differences in disease course among patients in clinical practice treated with early biologic therapy compared with those receiving conventional Step Up therapy.


Patients with Crohn's disease evaluated from July 2004 to November 2010 at a tertiary referral center were included. Demographic data were obtained from a prospectively maintained database. Patients were categorized into 1 of 2 groups: Early Bio group (with or without concomitant immune suppressants) or Step Up group (initial immune suppressants with or without escalation to biologic). Disease activity, quality of life, use of steroids, and number of hospitalizations, and surgeries were assessed.


Ninety-three patients with Crohn's disease met inclusion criteria: 39 (45%) in the Step Up group and 54 (58%) in the Early Bio group. There was no significant difference in demographic and clinical variables between groups. Mean Harvey-Bradshaw index and Short Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire scores at 3, 6, and 12 months were not different between groups. Response rates were higher in the Step Up group compared with the Early Bio group only at 3 months. Early Bio patients had a greater number of hospitalizations at 1 year (P = 0.04).


In clinical practice, early biologic therapy did not improve disease activity or quality of life and did not decrease the need for steroids or surgeries 1 year after therapy. Our results suggest that clinical outcomes are not worsened using the conventional approach. Therefore, an accelerated Step Up approach for most patients seems reasonable.

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