Immunomodulator therapy in inflammatory bowel disease
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6-Mercaptopurine and its prodrug counterpart, azathioprine, have proven efficacy in the induction and maintenance of remission, fistula closure, and steroid sparing in patients with Crohn’s disease. Long-term follow-up has demonstrated the safety of the purine analogues, with no increased risk of malignancy. For patients with Crohn’s disease intolerant or unresponsive to azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate has emerged as an effective alternative.
In patients with severe ulcerative colitis, intravenous cyclosporine is highly efficacious in the short term, and with the addition of azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine to oral cyclosporine, long-term remission rates of 60% to 70% can be achieved. Azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine therapy is effective in patients with steroid-dependent or steroid-refractory colitis and is valuable in maintaining remission. Neither methotrexate nor cyclosporine has been shown to be effective for maintenance therapy in patients with ulcerative colitis.
Current data are insufficient to recommend routine use of genetic or enzymatic testing of thiopurine methyltransferase or measurements of blood 6-thioguanine metabolites to guide 6-mercaptopurine or azathioprine dosing.
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References and Recommended Reading
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