In good news for patients with stubborn cases of ulcerative colitis, a serious intestinal disorder, a new research review suggests that the drug infliximab can be a useful alternative if other treatments don't work.
The drug is currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease.
"For people with active ulcerative colitis who do not respond to corticosteroids or immunosuppressive agents, infliximab is effective in inducing clinical remission, inducing clinical response, promoting mucosal healing and reducing the need for colectomy, at least in the short term," said review co-author Dr. Anthony Kwaku Akobeng.
Akobeng, a gastroenterologist at Manchester Children's University Hospitals in England, and colleagues examined seven randomized controlled studies comprising 860 patients that evaluated infliximab as a treatment for ulcerative colitis.
The review of studies appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews like this one draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.
"Infliximab is another option if steroids fail," said Peter Higgins, M.D., an assistant professor in gastroenterology at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor.
Still, infliximab "has known infectious risks, which while rare, can be fatal," said Higgins, who was not involved with the review. He added that it's not clear if it's a better option than cyclosporine, another drug commonly used when other medications fail.
The disease afflicts an estimated 600,000 Americans, and occurs when ulcers form in the rectum and colon, leading to frequent diarrhea and bleeding.
According to Higgins, the causes of ulcerative colitis aren't clear, but they may have something to do with an i
Contact: Lisa Esposito
Center for the Advancement of Health