A Drug Used to Treat Psoriasis Could be Effective for Ulcerative Colitis

According to a story from Medical News Bulletin, a recent study that was first published in the New England Journal of Medicine appears to have revealed a promising new treatment for ulcerative colitis. However, the drug itself is not new. In fact, the drug is already in use and approved as a treatment for several diseases, such as psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and Crohn’s disease, which is closely related to ulcerative colitis. The drug is called ustekinumab, and it could very well be approved around the world for ulcerative colitis before too long.

About Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a long term condition which is characterized by the appearance of ulcers and generalized inflammation of the rectum and colon. The exact cause of the condition remains a mystery, but there do appear to be some risk factors, such as family history, diet, and exposure to the medication isotrentinoin. Smoking appears to have a slightly protective effect. Symptoms can include anemia, bloody diarrhea, weight loss, fever, and abdominal pain. They tend to appear in a relapsing-remitting pattern. In severe disease there is a risk of serious complications, such as megacolon or inflammatory disease in other parts of the body. The risk of colon cancer is also elevated. Treatment may include dietary changes, medication to control inflammation, and, when complications appear, surgery. To learn more about ulcerative colitis, click here.

Controlling Immune System Behavior

All of these diseases that have been deemed suitable for treatment with ustekinumab are similar in that they are mediated by the behavior of the immune system. These diseases often see periods of disease progression or serious inflammation that are brought about by the overactivity of certain cytokines, which are proteins that immune cells release that control immune responses. Ustekinumab acts to inhibit the activity of certain inflammatory cytokines known as IL-12 and IL-23. 

Study Results

The study was international in scope and drew on data from 961 patients, who were treated with the drug in two parts: an induction phase, in which a larger dose of the drug is administered, and a maintenance period in which a smaller dose was given regularly in order to maintain the remission of symptoms.

More than 15 percent of patients that received the drug saw remission during induction compared to just 5 percent of the placebo group after 8 weeks. 38.4 percent of the patients were able to maintain remission with continued treatment every 12 weeks. 43.8 percent of patients that were getting maintenance therapy every 8 weeks displayed remission.

Ustekinumab has since been approved for the treatment of ulcerative colitis in the EU, and the results of this study appear to indicate that it could be a valuable component of long term treatment for many patients.

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