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To determine the effectiveness of medical therapy (including metronidazole, bismuth carbomer enemas, oral probiotic bacteria, butyrate suppositories, and glutamine suppositories) for inducing a response or for maintaining remission in pouchitis.Studies were selected using the MEDLINE data base (1966-December 1997), abstracts from major gastrointestinal meetings, and references from published articles and reviews.Four randomized controlled trials of medical therapy in adult patients with pouchitis were identified: two placebo controlled trials in active chronic pouchitis; one maintenance of remission trial comparing two active agents in chronic pouchitis; and one placebo-controlled maintenance of remission trial for chronic pouchitis. A single patient “n-of-1” trial for active chronic pouchitis was excluded.Data were extracted by three independent observers based on the intention to treat principle. Extracted data were converted to 2 × 2 tables (response versus no response and medical therapy versus placebo or medical therapy versus medical therapy) and an odds ratio with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were determined as described by Cochrane and Mantel and Haenszel. In addition, the absolute risk reduction, relative risk reduction, and number needed to treat were determined.The odds ratios of inducing a response using oral metronidazole or bismuth carbomer foam enemas compared with placebo in active chronic pouchitis were 12.34 (95% CI 2.34-64.95) and 1.00 (95% CI 0.29-3.42), respectively. The odds ratio of maintaining remission in chronic pouchitis for oral probiotic bacteria (VSL-3) compared with placebo was 15.33 (95% CI 4.51-52.14). There was no difference in the odds ratio of inducing symptomatic remission and then maintaining symptomatic remission after discontinuing suppressive medical therapy for chronic pouchitis with glutamine suppositories compared with butyrate suppositories, 2.75 (95% CI 0.48-15.94).Metronidazole is an effective therapy for active chronic pouchitis. Bismuth carbomer foam enemas are not effective therapy for active chronic pouchitis. Oral probiotic therapy with VSL-3 is an effective therapy for maintaining remission in patients with chronic pouchitis in remission. There is no difference in maintenance of symptomatic remission in patients with chronic pouchitis treated with glutamine versus butyrate suppositories, and it is unknown whether glutamine and butyrate are equally effective or ineffective. Additional randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-ranging clinical trials are needed to determine the efficacy of empiric medical therapies currently being used in patients with pouchitis.