Review article: 5-aminosalicylate formulations for the treatment of ulcerative colitis – methods of comparing release rates and delivery of 5-aminosalicylate to the colonic mucosa


Dr G. R. Lichtenstein, Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, 3rd Floor Ravdin Building, 3400 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4283, USA.


Background  Many oral 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) formulations are designed to maximize 5-ASA release in the colon where it acts topically on the colonic mucosa. Delayed-release formulations and azo-prodrugs minimize 5-ASA absorption in the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Aims  To review methods for assessing 5-ASA release and colonic distribution from oral formulations, and the potential use of this information for guiding clinical decisions.

Methods  PubMed and recent conference abstracts were searched for articles describing techniques used to assess 5-ASA release from ulcerative colitis (UC) therapies.

Results  In-vitro GI models, although unable to simulate more complex aspects of GI physiology, can provide useful data on 5-ASA release kinetics and bioaccessibility. Gamma-scintigraphy is useful for investigating GI disintegration of different formulations, but may not accurately reflect 5-ASA distribution. Plasma pharmacokinetic studies provide data on systemic exposure, but not on colonic distribution or mucosal uptake. Mucosal biopsies provide direct evidence of colonic distribution and may predict clinical efficacy, but must be interpreted cautiously because of considerable inter-subject variability and other confounding factors.

Conclusion  While assessment of 5-ASA release is important, limitations of individual measurement techniques mean that randomized clinical studies in UC patients remain the best guide for dosing and treatment regimen decisions.