Combined Use of Cyclosporine and Azathioprine or 6-Mercaptopurine in Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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SummaryThe aim of this study was to assess whether in steroid-resistant patients with pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) a combination of cyclosporine and azathioprine (or 6-mercaptopurine) could induce remission and subsequently permit maintenance on azathioprine/6-mercaptopurine as the sole immunosuppressive agent. Two boys and six girls (six with ulcerative colitis and two with Crohn's disease; ages 3-17 years) received 100-200 μg/kg/day cyclosporine intravenously and then 4-10 mg/kg/day orally. Doses were adjusted to achieve trough serum cyclosporine levels of 100-200μ/L (Abbott's TDX assay). Seven of the eight patients received azathioprine/6-mercaptopurine, and all were given a 5-aminosalicylate preparation and corticosteroids. The latter drugs were continued and then tapered off as clinical status allowed. Cyclosporine was continued for 3-10 months in those who responded. In seven of eight patients, there was a rapid clinical response; one patient showed a transient response, but recurrent bleeding led to total colectomy 9 days after starting cyclosporine. Of the seven responders, three were able to discontinue prednisone and cyclosporine and are doing well on azathioprine at long-term follow-up (2-5 years). One who did not receive azathioprine/6-mercaptopurine maintained remission for 2 years after cyclosporine was stopped, one experienced a disease flare-up 5 months after start of cyclosporine treatment and required colectomy, one who did not tolerate 6-mercaptopurine had a flare-up during cyclosporine tapering and underwent surgery at 6 months, and one started to flare up with cyclosporine tapering at 6 months and was scheduled for surgery. No significant complications of treatment were observed. Seven patients had an initial response and four of them have so far not required surgery. These preliminary findings suggest that azathioprine/6-mercaptopurine can be used safely to maintain cyclosporine-induced remission in children with IBD.

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