Discontinuation of Infliximab in Patients With Ulcerative Colitis Is Associated With Increased Risk of Relapse: A Multinational Retrospective Cohort Study

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Abstract

Background & Aims

Infliximab is a safe and effective therapy for ulcerative colitis (UC). We conducted a multicenter retrospective cohort study that included 7 European countries and Israel to examine whether infliximab discontinuation can be considered for patients who achieve sustained remission.

Methods

We performed a retrospective cohort study, collecting medical records from 13 tertiary care referral inflammatory bowel disease centers of all patients with UC treated with infliximab (n = 193). We compared the disease course of patients with at least 12 months of clinical remission who discontinued infliximab (n = 111) with that of patients who continued scheduled treatment (controls, n = 82). We examined the incidence rates of relapse, hospitalization and colectomy, the comparative effectiveness of different therapeutic strategies after discontinuation, and assessed the rates of response, remission, and adverse effects after infliximab re-initiation. Statistical analyses used time-to-event methods.

Results

In the entire cohort, 67 patients (34.7%) relapsed during the follow-up period. The incidence rate of relapse was significantly higher after discontinuation (23.3 per 100 person-years) compared with the control group (7.2 per 100 person-years) in univariable analysis (log-rank P < .001; hazard ratio, 3.41; 95% confidence interval, 1.88–6.20) and multivariable analysis (hazard ratio, 3.70; 95% confidence interval, 2.02–6.77). Rates of hospitalization and colectomy did not differ between groups. Thiopurines appeared to be the best treatment option after infliximab discontinuation (incidence of relapse: 15.0 per 100 person-years for thiopurines, 27.4 per 100 person-years for thiopurines plus aminosalicylates, and 31.2 per 100 person-years for aminosalicylates alone; log-rank P = .032). Response was regained in 77.1% of patients and remission in 51.4% of patients who re-initiated infliximab. However, 17.1% had infusion reactions and 17.1% reported other adverse events.

Conclusions

In a multinational retrospective cohort study of patients with UC in sustained clinical remission, we associated discontinuation of infliximab with an increased risk of relapse. Treatment re-initiation is effective and safe.

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