Remicade Puts Crohn's Disease Into Remission

Oct. 22, 2001 -- A few years ago, Remicade brought good news to the world of Crohn's disease, which wreaks havoc on the bowels. And now, new research is showing that when given every few weeks, Remicade injections can actually keep people in remission.

In the past, Crohn's disease, which affects a half a million people in the U.S., was treated when symptoms flared up, such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fever. But now, Remicade has the potential to change all that.

"For the first time, doctors will be able to move beyond treating flare-ups to actually managing the disease over time," lead investigator Stephen B. Hanauer, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says in a news release. This will hopefully allow people with Crohn's to go about their day without constantly worrying when the next attack will occur.

Hanauer and colleagues looked at 573 people with moderate to severe Crohn's disease. Each person received a single dose of Remicade, and 58% of them had improvement. The ones who responded favorably to this first injection then received four injections of either placebo or low- or high-dose Remicade over the next 22 weeks.

The researchers then evaluated their progress 30 weeks after the injections were started and found that the people who had received Remicade were twice as likely to be in remission than the people who received placebo.

Remission was seen in 22% of the placebo group, 39% of the low-dose Remicade group, and 45% of the high-dose group.

Remicade works in a novel way, attacking a chemical called tumor necrosis factor alpha, which is thought to be one of the main culprits behind the inflammation of Crohn's disease. Other treatments for this disabling bowel disease are surgery and other medications that can help with symptoms but don't make a big impact on progression of the disease.

Remicade could change the lives of many people with Crohn's disease if it can lessen the characteristic symptom flares and keep people in remission for longer periods of time.