Advances in medical therapy for Crohn’s disease
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Therapeutic research in Crohn’s disease has been intensified in recent years. This has led to many novel approaches and insights into the mechanism of action of ‘classic’ drugs. Antibiotics remain valuable but do not offer benefit when used in addition to corticosteroids. Immunomodulators remain the cornerstone for maintenance therapy, although certain corticosteroid-dependent patients can be switched to maintenance therapy with topical steroids. Azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine remain efficient beyond 4 years in patients with relapses and elevated C-reactive protein in spite of this therapy. Infliximab has shown efficiency in maintenance of active and fistulizing Crohn’s disease. In addition, ‘automatic reinfusion’ was found to be superior to ‘on-demand’ treatment. Infusion reactions and loss of response, most often caused by antibodies against infliximab, can be prevented with immunomodulators and corticosteroid infusions before dosing. Such alternative anti-tumor necrosis factor agents as adalimumab or CDP-870 may be less immunogenic. Other biologic agents, such as the anti-integrin monoclonal antibody natalizumab, were shown to be effective in maintaining remission and somewhat less so in induction of remission. Finally, much attention is being paid to alteration of the luminal flora with probiotics and helminth ova. Extracorporeal apheresis and even stem cell transplantation were found to be effective in isolated patients, but these therapies warrant further prospective and controlled investigation.
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