Maintenance of remission in Crohn's disease: current and emerging therapeutic options

Drugs. 2004;64(10):1069-89. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200464100-00004.


Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disorder with a relapsing and remitting course. Once remission is achieved, the main aim of the management of Crohn's disease is maintenance of that remission. Significant advances have been made into understanding the aetiology and pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. With these advances in understanding come increasing numbers of new agents and therapies, aimed both at active disease and the subsequent maintenance of remission in Crohn's disease. Current therapeutic strategies in maintaining remission in Crohn's disease include 5-aminosalicylates (e.g. sulfasalazine, mesalazine), thiopurines (e.g. azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine [mercaptopurine]), methotrexate and infliximab. The 5-aminosalicylates appear to have efficacy limited to either surgically induced remission and/or limited small bowel Crohn's disease. The immunomodulators now have an established role in Crohn's maintenance. Azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine are effective in chronic active disease and corticosteroid-dependent Crohn's disease. Methotrexate has similar indications, although it appears to be an alternative in patients who are intolerant of, or resistant to, the thiopurines. The most recent breakthrough has been in the field of biological therapy for maintenance of remission in Crohn's disease. Treatment of patients with the anti-tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha antibody infliximab has been shown already to be effective in inducing remission. Recent studies have now confirmed a role for infliximab in delaying relapse and maintaining remission in patients responsive to infliximab induction therapy. However, results with soluble TNF alpha receptors have been disappointing. A number of other biological and nonbiological agents have shown potential, though trials of the 'newer' biological agents have thus far been disappointing, in the maintenance of remission in Crohn's disease. The evidence for theses agents is currently limited, in many cases to treating active disease; however, these data are discussed in this article in order to provide an overview of future potential therapies. The aim of this review is to provide clinicians with an insight into current and emerging therapeutic agents for the maintenance of remission of Crohn's disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Crohn Disease / therapy*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infliximab
  • Mesalamine / therapeutic use
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Remission Induction
  • Smoking Cessation


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Mesalamine
  • Infliximab