Background & aims: This study determined the effectiveness of tacrolimus for the treatment of Crohn's disease fistulas.
Methods: The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter clinical trial. Forty-eight patients with Crohn's disease and draining perianal or enterocutaneous fistulas were randomized to treatment with oral tacrolimus 0.2 mg. kg(-1). day(-1) or placebo for 10 weeks. The primary outcome measure was fistula improvement as defined by closure of >/=50% of particular fistulas that were draining at baseline and maintenance of that closure for at least 4 weeks. A secondary outcome measure was fistula remission as defined by closure of all fistulas and maintenance of that closure for at least 4 weeks.
Results: Forty-three percent of tacrolimus-treated patients had fistula improvement compared with 8% of placebo-treated patients (P = 0.004). Ten percent of tacrolimus-treated patients had fistula remission compared with 8% of placebo-treated patients (P = 0.86). Adverse events significantly associated with tacrolimus, including headache, increased serum creatinine level, insomnia, leg cramps, paresthesias, and tremor, were managed with dose reduction.
Conclusions: Oral tacrolimus 0.2 mg. kg(-1). day(-1) is effective for fistula improvement, but not fistula remission, in patients with perianal Crohn's disease. Adverse events associated with tacrolimus can be managed by dose reduction. Lower doses of tacrolimus should be evaluated.