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Immune System Drugs Help IBD

From Viagra Relative to Arthritis Medication, New Drugs Promise Gentler, Better Results

New Immune System Drug Antibody Prevents Crohn's Flare-Ups

In another new study, the drug Antegren helped prevent flare-ups associated with Crohn's disease in people who were in remission, reports Brian G. Feagan, MD, professor of medicine in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Western Ontario in London.

The drug has already been shown to induce remission in Crohn's sufferers.

Antegren works by keeping immune system cells from leaving the bloodstream. In Crohn's patients, this appears to prevent the immune system attack on the gut that occurs with the disease, Feagan says. "If we can prevent that, white blood cells would stay in the circulation where they belong."

The researchers studied 339 adults with Crohn's disease who had improved or gone into remission after receiving three infusions of Antegren. The patients were randomly assigned to continue to receive Antegren for up to 12 additional monthly infusions, or to placebo.

Six months later, 44% of patients given Antegren were still in remission, compared with 26% on placebo, Feagan says. Also, 61% of those taking the drug continued to show an improvement in symptoms, compared with 29% on placebo.

People who took Antegren were no more likely to suffer side effects than those on placebo, he explains.

Viagra Relative Fights Ulcerative Colitis

The first of a totally new class of agents related to Viagra, the compound OPC-6535 appears to be safe and effective for the treatment of ulcerative colitis, Hanauer says.

In the study 186 people with active ulcerative colitis (diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, and/or other symptoms) were randomly assigned to receive one of two oral doses of the drug or a placebo for eight weeks. Many were also taking anti-inflammatory or other ulcerative colitis treatments like Rowasa or Pentasa.

The disease improved significantly in about half of the participants taking the active drug -- but the effect was greater in those taking the higher dose. Also, 20% of those taking the higher dose of OPC-6535 went into full remission from the disease, compared with fewer than 5% taking placebo, he says.

OPC-6535 attacks an enzyme that is present on immune cells in the brain and lung, inhibiting a number of white blood cell functions associated with inflammation, according to Hanauer.

Side effects observed in trials of OPC-3565 include headache, nausea, and dizziness.

A major advantage of the drug is that it is given in pill form, he notes. Many current therapies for ulcerative colitis are administered by injection or infusion.

Organ Transplant Drug Relieves Ulcerative Colitis

Other researchers report that Simulect, an injectable drug already used to prevent rejection of new organs in transplant patients, may also help people with ulcerative colitis.

"Currently, steroids are the best available treatment for ulcerative colitis, but 30% of patients simply don't respond," says Tom L. Creed, MD, PharmD, clinical research fellow at the Henry Wellcome Laboratories of the University of Bristol in the U.K. Others can't tolerate the drugs because of side effects, he says. There are few other options if steroids don't work except surgery to remove the colon (colectomy).

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