Combining infliximab with methotrexate for the induction and maintenance of remission in refractory Crohn's disease: a controlled pilot study

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Abstract

Objectives

Immunosuppression of chronic active Crohn's disease resistant or intolerant to purine antimetabolites still remains a clinical challenge. To obtain long-lasting effects with the anti-TNF-α antibody infliximab repeated infusions are often required. Methotrexate has been shown to be a moderately effective drug in maintaining remission in Crohn's disease. The aim of the present pilot study was to evaluate the combination of infliximab and methotrexate as therapy for refractory Crohn's disease.

Methods

Nineteen patients with chronic active Crohn's disease resistant or intolerant to azathioprine were enrolled. Patients received either two infusions of infliximab (5 mg/kg) alone (n=8) or in combination with long-term methotrexate at a dosage of 20 mg/week (n=11) over 48 weeks.

Results

Two out of eight patients receiving infliximab monotherapy and four out of 11 patients treated with infliximab and concomitant methotrexate had discontinued study treatment by week 48, solely because of lack of efficacy. Clinical remission at week 48 was observed in five out of seven patients treated with infliximab and methotrexate, but only in two out of six patients receiving infliximab monotherapy. In addition, patients treated with concomitant methotrexate achieved remission earlier (median time 2 versus 18 weeks) and needed fewer steroids (median prednisolone dose 0 versus 11.8 mg). Despite an increased mean number of adverse events per patient in the methotrexate group, the proportions of patients experiencing any adverse events and serious adverse events were similar across treatment groups.

Conclusions

The combination of infliximab with long-term methotrexate may be a promising concept in refractory Crohn's disease. Our data prompt larger trials.

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