Background & aims: Thalidomide decreases production of tumor necrosis factor alpha, a proinflammatory cytokine associated with Crohn's disease (CD). In this study the safety, tolerance, and efficacy of low-dose thalidomide were evaluated for treatment of moderate-to-severe, steroid-dependent CD.
Methods: Twelve adult male patients with Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI) scores of > or = 250 and < or = 500 despite > or = 20 mg prednisone/day were enrolled. The first 6 patients received 50 mg thalidomide every night, the next 6 received 100 mg every night. Steroid doses were stable during the first 4 weeks of treatment, then tapered during weeks 5-12. CDAI was used to assess response.
Results: (1) Disease activity improved consistently in all patients during weeks 1-4: 58% response, 17% remission. (2) Clinical improvement was generally maintained despite steroid taper during weeks 5-12. All patients were able to reduce steroids by >/=50%. Forty-four percent discontinued steroids entirely. In weeks 5-12, 70% of patients responded and 20% achieved remission. (3) Side effects were mild and mostly transient, with the most common being drowsiness, peripheral neuropathy, edema, and dermatitis.
Conclusions: Low-dose thalidomide appears to be well tolerated and effective over a 12-week period. Results of this pilot study support the need for controlled multicenter trials of thalidomide for treatment of CD.