Early Use of Immunosuppressive Drugs for Early Crohn’s Patients

So far the strategy of treating patients, who were newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, was the use of corticosteroids to control abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. The conventional mode of treatment consisted of a “step-up” treatment: after corticosteroids the use of immunosuppressants and finally antibody treatment would follow to curb the inflammatory response. International data which were published in the Lancet (February 23 issue) points to a safer and more effective treatment protocol. It consists of a “top-down” approach rather than of the conventional “step-up” approach. Patients receive immunosuppression early in the form of azathioprine and also the antibody infliximab, known as Remicade. Another study examined patients who were on maintenance therapy with adalimumab (Humira). They experienced sustained improvements in the symptoms that are associated with Crohn’s disease. After 4 weeks of induction therapy with the medication patients with mild and severe depression had improved to such an extent that they returned to the normal range. They were also assessed regarding fatigue and after treatment they showed a significant improvement in their daily functioning. The two treatment protocols were compared in a trial involving 129 patients with Crohn’s disease who had no previous treatment. At the end of the trial the researcher found that 65% of the group that had received the “top-down” treatment was symptom free after 26 weeks of treatment. Contrary to this only 36% of the “step-up” patients went into remission during the same time.

Early Use of Immunosuppressive Drugs for Early Crohn's Patient

Crohn’s before and after immunosuppressive drugs

When the patients were examined after 1 year, 62% of the “top-down” group was still symptom free, but only 42% of the “step-up” group had no symptoms. Dr. Brian Feagan of the University of Western Ontario coordinated this trial involving international sites in Belgium, Holland and Germany. He points out that the newly diagnosed Crohn’s disease patient that has the worst prognostic signs will benefit from this form of treatment. The top-down modality also is safer, as it protects the patient from high exposure to steroids. Similar results were demonstrated in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The results of these trials and Dr. Feagan’s research suggest that the top-down treatment option could also give the best chance to patients with other chronic autoimmune diseases such as ulcerative colitis.

More information about Crohn’s disease:

Reference: The Medical Post, March 4, 2008, page 2; April 1, 2008, page 17

Last edited November 3, 2014


Benefits Of Arthritis Drug Outweigh Cancer Risk

Any medication that is very effective in one area may also have side effects.
An analysis of randomized trial has confirmed, that rheumatoid arthritis patients who are treated with anti- tumor necrosis (TNF) antibodies, are at an increased risk for cancer. A study from the Mayo Clinic and other studies from institutions in the U.K. showed that patients who are treated with the monoclonal antibodies infliximab (Remicade) and adalimumab (Humira) are at a higher risk for serious infections.
This may sound like a blow to any patient with rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment with Monoclonal antibodies and anti-Tumor necrosis antibodies has revolutionized the care of these patients. The medications are highly effective and have made a difference for many affected with rheumatoid arthritis.
Dr. Eric Matteson, a study co-author and professor of medicine in the division of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic points out, that the concerns about infection and malignancy are not new. They are already mentioned in the drug labeling. The risk for cancer was statistically significant only in the high-dose groups. It was also impossible to draw any conclusions about whether any type of malignancy occurred more often than another. He also emphasized, that doctors and patients have to be alert to signs of infection, and age-appropriate cancer screening is of great importance for the patient who takes these particular medications.
Dr. John Esdaile from the University of British Columbia mentions some additional points. These medications are not handed out freely to any patient with R.A. The treatment cost of about $18,000 per year does not make this a standard medication for anybody with R.A. Patients with severe disease who have failed to get relief from any conventional medications would be the ones who are considered for this treatment. Most patients would likely be receiving doses in the lower range of the spectrum, and patients usually know within 3 months, whether the medication is helping them. The medications do not work in everyone, but for 50% of the patients the effect is dramatically positive. The patient, whose joints were being destroyed by rheumatoid arthritis, can go from a state of terrible pain and disability to being able to return to a good quality of life.

Benefits Of Arthritis Drug Outweigh Cancer Risk

Benefits Of Arthritis Drug Outweigh Cancer Risk

The key is close screening of patients regarding the suitability of the therapy. The possible increased risk for malignancies and infection must be discussed with candidates for anti-TNF therapy. Finally close monitoring for infection and cancer screening is necessary.

More information about rheumatoid arthritis:

Reference: The Medical Post, June 2, 2006, page 1 and 7.

Last edited Nov. 1, 2014