Purpose: To identify advances in drug therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the new agents in treating both ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease.
Data Identification: Studies published from January 1980 through June 1989 were identified using MEDLINE and through extensive hand searching of bibliographies in identified articles.
Study Selection: One hundred and ten articles directly related to the topic were found and analyzed. Another 42 articles were relevant to the material reviewed.
Data Extraction: Articles were selected on the basis of study quality and their significance with regard to treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
Results of Data Analysis: The aminosalicylates are emerging as effective and safe therapy for inflammatory bowel disease. Corticotropin can be considered the drug of choice for certain patients with severe ulcerative colitis, and new rapidly metabolized topical steroids appear to be as effective as traditional forms and have fewer side effects. Immunosuppressive agents, including 6-mercaptopurine and azathioprine, may be useful in treating difficult-to-manage patients with either Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis, whereas cyclosporin appears promising but should be reserved for patients in whom other measures have failed. Patients with refractory perineal Crohn disease and those with Crohn colitis may benefit from metronidazole. Many other drugs including clonidine, cromoglycate, chloroquine, fish oil, methotrexate, antituberculous agents, interferon, and superoxide dismutase have shown enough promise in preliminary studies to warrant controlled clinical trials.
Conclusions: Drug therapy for inflammatory bowel disease, limited for many years to sulfasalazine and some corticosteroids, has been extended to include the aminosalicylates, rapidly metabolized topical steroids, immunosuppressive agents, and metronidazole. Potentially useful newer drugs await further study.