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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).

Simulect is an immune system suppressing drug. Therefore, it decreases the immune system response that causes ulcerative colitis symptoms.

In a study of 20 patients with moderately active ulcerative colitis disease (diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, and possibly other symptoms) nearly two-thirds went into full remission, despite steroid therapy, Creed reports.

About 50% of those with severe disease achieved full remission.

Says Lewis, "All these drugs really change the way we look at inflammation. This is the future."

It's way too early to say which of the drugs will have the biggest impact, he says. When looking into his crystal ball, Lewis tells WebMD that combination therapy, with different drugs that target different parts of the immune system, is a likely approach for the future.

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