Long-Term Remicade Use Helps Crohn's

May 2, 2002 -- When Remicade hit the market a few years back, it was a very welcome addition to the world of Crohn's disease -- a serious and painful bowel condition. Currently this drug is recommended only as a one-time injection. But a new study now shows that taking Remicade long term seems to be key in controlling Crohn's.

Remicade has shown promise in providing relief in reducing the symptoms of Crohn's disease, which is a lifelong inflammatory disorder of the intestines. However, that relief has only been temporary in treating people with mild symptoms. Many patients eventually require steroids to control symptoms, but long-term use of steroids produces severe side effects.

The new study shows that treatment with Remicade every two months provides "a sustained response ... similar to maintenance treatment for rheumatoid arthritis," says author Stephen B. Hanauer, MD, director of the Center for Research in Inflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases at the University of Chicago, in a news release. Remicade is commonly used in multiple doses for rheumatoid arthritis.

In his study, Hanauer gave all 573 patients an initial injection of Remicade; then assigned them to receive either repeat infusions of placebo or Remicade at weeks 2 and 6, then every 8 weeks for 46 weeks.

"More than twice as many patients who received maintenance Remicade therapy maintained a clinical remission continuously from week 14 to week 54 compared with patients who received placebo maintenance," according to the researchers.

Patients on steroids who took Remicade as a "maintenance" drug were able to reduce or -- in one-third of cases -- able to stop taking steroids altogether and still get relief from symptoms.