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Use of methotrexate in refractory Crohn's disease: The Edinburgh experience



Background: In the two benchmark controlled trials in Crohn's disease (CD) supporting its use, methotrexate (MTX) was used as the immunosuppressant of choice in immunomodulatory-naive patients. However, in daily clinical practice MTX is used generally after thiopurine analogs have failed.

Methods: The data are reported using intramuscular (IM) MTX (25 mg/week) in the induction of remission and oral MTX (15 mg/week) in 39 CD patients with a median age of 32 years, assessed retrospectively. In all, 97% patients had failed azathioprine and/or mercaptopurine therapy due to lack of efficacy in 14 (36%) and side effects in 24 (61%) patients; 21 patients (53%) were steroid-dependent with a median dose of 27.5 mg prednisolone/day for over a year.

Results: In all, 72% of patients tolerated an induction regimen of 25 mg/week of IM MTX; 10% managed a reduced dose and 18% were intolerant. Remission was achieved in 71% of patients at 16 weeks. In the patients taking corticosteroids, withdrawal was achieved in 26% of patients and reduction in 47% at 16 weeks. Oral MTX therapy was continued in 22 patients after induction. In this group the probability of relapse was 78% at 50 weeks of oral therapy.

Conclusions: Parenteral MTX therapy is efficacious in inducing remission in steroid-dependent CD patients, although its use is limited by side effects in ≈30% of patients. Low-dose oral therapy does not maintain long-term remission and is not a suitable alternative.

(Inflamm Bowel Dis 2008)