Comparative Effectiveness of Mesalamine, Sulfasalazine, Corticosteroids, and Budesonide for the Induction of Remission in Crohn's Disease: A Bayesian Network Meta-analysis

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Induction treatment of mild-to-moderate Crohn's disease is controversial.


To compare the induction of remission between different doses of mesalamine, sulfasalazine, corticosteroids, and budesonide for active Crohn's disease.

Data sources:

We identified randomized controlled trials from existing Cochrane reviews and an updated literature search in Medline, EMBASE, and CENTRAL to November 2015.

Study selection:

We included randomized controlled trials (n = 22) in adult patients with Crohn's disease that compared budesonide, sulfasalazine, mesalamine, or corticosteroids with placebo or each other, for the induction of remission (8–17 wks). Mesalamine (above and below 2.4 g/d) and budesonide (above and below 6 mg/d) were stratified into low and high doses.

Data extraction:

Our primary outcome was remission, defined as a Crohn's Disease Activity Index score <150. A Bayesian random-effects network meta-analysis was performed on the proportion in remission.

Data synthesis:

Corticosteroids (odds ratio [OR] = 3.80; 95% credible interval [CrI]: 2.48–5.66), high-dose budesonide (OR = 2.96; 95% CrI: 2.06–4.30), and high-dose mesalamine (OR = 2.29; 95% CrI: 1.58–3.33) were superior to placebo. Corticosteroids were similar to high-dose budesonide (OR = 1.21; 95% CrI: 0.84–1.76), but more effective than high-dose mesalamine (OR = 1.83; 95% CrI: 1.16–2.88). Sulfasalazine was not significantly superior to any therapy including placebo.


Randomized controlled trials that use a strict definition of induction of remission and disease severity at enrollment to assess effectiveness in treating mild-to-moderate Crohn's disease are limited.


Corticosteroids and high-dose budesonide were effective treatments for inducing remission in mild-to-moderate Crohn's disease. High-dose mesalamine is an option among patients preferring to avoid steroids.

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