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    Crohn's Disease: Immune Therapy First?

    Better Remission Rates Seen in Crohn's Patients Who Get Immune-Suppressing Drugs First Rather Than Steroids
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    Feb. 21, 2008 -- Remission from Crohn's disease may be more likely if patients get immune-suppressing drugs, not steroids, first.

    That news, published in the Feb. 23 edition of The Lancet, comes from a study of Crohn's disease patients in Europe.

    The study shows better remission rates when patients started their Crohn's disease treatment with certain immune-suppressing drugs instead of steroids.

    "Our study clearly demonstrated that this alternative treatment method was more effective at inducing disease remission than the conventional method," says Brian Feagan, MD, in a news release.

    "Not only were patients more likely to get their disease under control, but they were also spared exposure to steroids -- the extended use of which is linked with metabolic disease and even increased mortality," says Feagan, who directs clinical trials at the Robarts Research Institute at Canada's University of Western Ontario.

    Other researchers are testing the same strategy. If their findings, expected later this year, are in line with those from the European study, "the treatment algorithm for patients with Crohn's disease will change," sates an editorial in The Lancet.

    (Do you have Crohn's? What is your experience with these two types of drugs? Talk with others on the Crohn's and Colitis: Support Group board.)

    Crohn's Disease Treatments

    The European study included 133 Crohn's disease patients who hadn't started taking any Crohn's disease medications.

    The researchers randomly assigned half of the patients to start Crohn's disease treatment by taking two immune-suppressing drugs, Remicade and Imuran. Those patients could later take corticosteroids, if needed.

    For comparison, the other patients got standard Crohn's disease treatment, which involved first taking corticosteroids, then taking Imuran, and finally taking Remicade.

    The goal of the study was to see which group had better remission rates without surgery after 26 weeks of treatment and after a year of treatment.

    Crohn's Study Results

    Remission rates were superior among patients who started treatment with Remicade and Imuran.

    Among those patients, 60% were in remission after 26 weeks of treatment and nearly 62% were in remission one year after treatment started.

    In comparison, about 36% of patients who started with steroid treatment were in remission after 26 weeks of treatment and 42% were in remission one year after treatment started.

    After the first year of treatment, the two groups had similar remission rates. Relapse happened later for patients who started with Remicade and Imuran than those who started with steroids.

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