Background & aims: Azathioprine is a commonly used and effective treatment for maintenance of remission for patients with steroid-dependent Crohn's disease (CD). However, azathioprine therapy is associated with an increased risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The objective of this analysis was to determine the impact of azathioprine therapy on survival and quality-adjusted life expectancy after accounting for both the benefits of therapy and potential increased risk of lymphoma.
Methods: A decision analysis using a Markov model depicting the natural history of alternative management strategies for maintenance of remission in patients with CD was performed.
Results: In the base-case analysis, treatment of CD patients with a steroid-induced remission with azathioprine resulted in an average increase in life expectancy of 0.04 years and 0.05 quality-adjusted years. The incremental gain in life expectancy decreased with increasing patient age and increasing risk of lymphoma.
Conclusions: Therapy with azathioprine to preserve remission in patients with CD results in increased quality-adjusted life expectancy. This increase was greatest in young patients who have the lowest baseline risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and who have the greatest life expectancy in the absence of a CD-related death.