Journal Article
Review
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Optimizing therapy for inflammatory bowel disease.

This review focuses on current developments in the major categories of therapy used in the management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Conventional corticosteroids, although a mainstay of the acute treatment of IBD for many years, have many drawbacks, including a variety of side effects--particularly with chronic use. Budesonide appears to be relatively safe and at least moderately effective in inducing remission in active distal ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease. Aminosalicylates, both oral and topical, have proven useful in managing mild-to-moderate active UC and mild active Crohn's disease, as well as in maintaining remission. Data from recent trials suggest that higher doses of mesalamine are generally more efficacious than lower doses. In addition, a combination of oral and rectal formulations may succeed when one route, alone, is not successful. The immunomodulatory agents azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, and methotrexate have been shown to be effective in the treatment of IBD and are now widely accepted as valuable parts of the therapeutic armamentarium. Cyclosporine, although effective, is associated with many toxicities, and patients must be monitored closely in centers experienced with this agent. Clinical trials of IL-10, IL-11, and anti-TNFalpha have also shown promise. Antibiotics have been used empirically for many years in the treatment of IBD. Larger clinical trials are warranted to explore the potential efficacy of antibiotic therapy. This has been accomplished with metronidazole in Crohn's disease, and other antibiotic trials are underway at this time. The investigational agents acemannan, heparin, and transdermal nicotine have also shown variable degrees of promise as possible therapies for IBD. Despite the variety of agents available for the treatment of IBD, none is ideal or universally accepted. Ongoing research into the well-established therapeutic agents, as well as novel drugs with more precise targets, may contribute to the design of a more nearly optimal regimen for IBD in the not-too-distant future.

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