Crohn's Disease Medications
There is no medication that can cure Crohn's disease. Patients with Crohn's disease typically will experience periods of relapse (worsening of inflammation) followed by periods of remission (lessening of inflammation) lasting months to years. During relapses, symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding worsen. During remissions, these symptoms improve. Remissions usually occur because of treatment with medications or surgery, but occasionally they occur spontaneously without any treatment.
Since there is no cure for Crohn's disease, the goals of treatment are to 1) induce remissions, 2) maintain remissions, 3) minimize side effects of treatment, and 4) improve the quality of life. Treatment of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis with medications is similar though not always identical.
Medications for treating Crohn's disease include
- anti-inflammatory agents such as 5-ASA compounds and corticosteroids,
- topical antibiotics, and
Selection of treatment regimens depends on disease severity, disease location, and disease-associated complications. Various guidelines recommend that approaches be sequential - initially to induce clinical remission, and then to maintain remissions. Initial evidence of improvement should be seen within 2 to 4 weeks and maximal improvement should be seen in 12 to 16 weeks3. The classic approach to therapy in Crohn's disease has been a "step-up" approach starting with the least toxic agents for mild disease, and increasingly more aggressive treatment for more severe disease, or patients who have not responded to less toxic agents. More recently the field has been moving toward a "top-down" approach (early aggressive management) which might decrease exposure to anti-inflammatory agents and increase exposure to agents that enhance mucosal healing that might prevent future complications4.