Immune System Drugs Help IBD
From Viagra Relative to Arthritis Medication, New Drugs Promise Gentler, Better Results
May 19, 2004 (New Orleans) -- New medicines -- ranging from a
relative of Viagra to an arthritis drug -- target the haywire immune responses
that underlie inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Inflammatory bowel disease is the umbrella term for a number of
conditions that cause inflammation of the bowel. The two most common ones are
ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Both of these conditions occur when the
immune system goes awry and attacks the lining of the colon. The disorders take
a toll on their victims - affecting more than 1 million in the U.S. alone --
causing belly aches, diarrhea, and other symptoms that are often severe enough
to interfere with daily activities, says James B. Lewis, MD, associate director
of the inflammatory disease program at the University of Pennsylvania in
"We're seeing many different approaches to treat this
inflammation," says Stephen B. Hanauer, MD, professor of medicine and
clinical pharmacology at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
"For example, [corticosteroids] already used to treat IBD, are effective
anti-inflammatory agents but they affect all tissues, causing many side
Many of the new drugs, on the other hand, selectively target
the defects associated with IBD -- an approach that promises better results
with fewer side effects, he tells WebMD.
There were a number of new approaches discussed here at
Digestive Disease Week, a major medical meeting of gastroenterologists.
Arthritis Medication Combats Crohn's, too
The rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira helped patients with
moderate Crohn's disease to go into remission, Hanauer says.
A man-made biological substance called a monoclonal antibody,
Humira works by blocking an inflammation-causing protein called tumor necrosis
factor alpha, or TNF-alpha, that has been implicated in both rheumatoid
arthritis and Crohn's disease.
In a study of nearly 300 patients who did not improve despite
treatment with standard medications, 30% of those given higher doses of Humira
were in remission by four weeks later, compared with only 12% on placebo,
Humira is an injectable drug and was extremely well tolerated,