The calcineurin inhibitor tacrolimus and the anti-TNF-antibody infliximab are established options in steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis (UC).Aim
To evaluate the efficacy of infliximab-salvage therapy in patients with refractory UC failing to respond to tacrolimus.Methods
Twenty-four patients were enrolled in this evaluation. Reasons for tacrolimus therapy were steroid-refractory disease in 19 patients and steroid-dependency in five patients. All patients receiving infliximab had tacrolimus-refractory active disease (Lichtiger score >10) and were treated with 5 mg/kg at weeks 0, 2 and 6 and every 8 weeks thereafter, if tolerated.Results
Six of 24 patients (25%) achieved remission following infliximab infusion and four of 24 (17%) had an initial response only, but underwent proctocolectomy later because of loss of response (3) or development of a delayed hypersensitivity reaction (1). Fourteen patients (58%) completely failed to respond with 10 undergoing colectomy. Eight patients experienced side effects under infliximab, including two infectious complications (herpes zoster and herpes pneumonia).Conclusions
Infliximab offers a therapeutic option as rescue therapy in about a quarter of patients with active UC after failing to respond to tacrolimus. This benefit has to be weighed against the risks of infectious complications.