Drugs cut need for surgery for Crohn's disease sufferers by more than half

January 29, 2014
Drugs cut need for surgery for Crohn's disease sufferers by more than half

The requirement of bowel surgery is dramatically reduced by up to 60% in patients who develop Crohn's disease if they receive prolonged treatment with drugs called thiopurines, says a new study.

Crohn's affects more than quarter-of-a-million people in the UK leading to an inflamed intestine.

Researchers from St George's, University of London, St George's Hospital, London and Imperial College, London, monitored more than 5,000 in the UK living with Crohn's disease for more than 20 years and looked at the effect of thiopurine drugs that suppress inflammation in the gut.

Gastroenterologist Dr Richard Pollok, an honorary senior lecturer at St George's, University of London, said "Our discovery is timely since new guidelines from the USA have played down the benefits of these drugs in favour of newer agents.

"A year of treatment with the newer 'biologics', which are administered by injection, cost about £10,000 more compared to thiopurines.

"We try to avoid surgery but some patients face multiple procedures because the disease can flare up again particularly where the intestine has been rejoined.

"The fact that thiopurines can cut the need for surgical intervention and remain affordable is good news for patients and the NHS."

They found patients taking thiopurines, such as Azathioprine, for more than 12 months had a 60% reduction within the first 5 years of diagnosis.

Thiopurines have been used in the treatment of inflammatory bowel conditions like Crohn's disease since the 1970s but their long-term benefits have just come to light.

There has been a major increase in the number of patients who receive these drugs in the past decade and rates of surgery in patients with this condition have dropped, partly as a result of these and other treatments.

But up to a quarter of patients still go on to have their first corrective to remove the worst affected areas within 5 years of being diagnosed.

The study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, was funded by the National Institute for Health Research.

Explore further: IBD patients face increased skin cancer risk

More information: Chatu S, Saxena S, Subramanian V, Curcin V, Yadegarfar G, Gunn L, Majeed A, Pollok R.C. The Impact of Timing and Duration of Thiopurine Treatment on First Intestinal Resection in Crohn ' s Disease: National UK Population-Based Study 1989 – 2010 Am J Gastroenterol 28 Jan 2013; DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2013.462

Related Stories

IBD patients face increased skin cancer risk

November 21, 2011

Certain patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may have an increased risk of skin cancer, which is intensified by the use of immunosuppressant medications , according to two new studies in Gastroenterology, the official ...

Recommended for you

Monkeys in Asia harbor virus from humans, other species

November 19, 2015

When it comes to spreading viruses, bats are thought to be among the worst. Now a new study of nearly 900 nonhuman primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia shows that macaques harbor more diverse astroviruses, which can cause ...

One-step test for hepatitis C virus infection developed

November 14, 2015

UC Irvine Health researchers have developed a cost-effective one-step test that screens, detects and confirms hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections. Dr. Ke-Qin Hu, director of hepatology services, will present findings at the ...

Computer model reveals deadly route of Ebola outbreak

November 10, 2015

Using a novel statistical model, a research team led by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health mapped the spread of the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, providing the most detailed picture to date ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.