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Remicade Cuts Need for Colon Surgery

First Drug to Reduce Chance That People With Ulcerative Colitis Will Need Colon Removed
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 16, 2007 (Philadelphia) -- For the first time, a drug has been shown to cut the chance that a person with ulcerative colitis will need to have their colon removed.

In a study of 630 people with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis, the drug Remicade, originally approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis, significantly reduced the number of people that needed colon removal surgery.

The study was presented here at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology.

“This is huge. Losing their colon is something most people would like to avoid,” Phillip Jaffee, MD, of the Gastroenterology Center of Connecticut in Hamden, tells WebMD. “No drug has ever been shown to do this before.” Jaffee, a member of the committee that chose which stories to highlight at the meeting, was not involved with the research.

Marked by bloody diarrhea and rectal bleeding, ulcerative colitis affects about half a million people in the U.S., according to researcher William Sanburn, MD, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.

Since it is an inflammatory bowel disease, anti-inflammatory medications are the first drugs of choice, but about half of sufferers don’t respond, he says. That’s where steroids, immunosuppression agents and Remicade, approved in 2005 for the treatment of ulcerative colitis, come in.

Still, about half of these people do not get relief, continuing to suffer from flare-ups that are difficult to manage, he says. They’re referred to surgery to have the colon removed.

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