Background: Infliximab, a chimeric anti-tumour necrosis factor monoclonal antibody with potent anti-inflammatory effects, represents an effective treatment option in patients with severe inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Serious side-effects of such an immunomodulating therapy are speculated and therefore we reviewed our clinical experience in a retrospective safety study looking upon a single cohort of 100 IBD patients from a large German University Hospital.
Methods: 100 patients with severe Crohn's disease (n = 92), ulcerative colitis (n = 7) or indeterminate colitis (n = 1) treated with infliximab (5 mg/kg) from January 2000 to December 2003 were retrospectively analysed for acute and subacute adverse events by chart review.
Results: Overall, infliximab therapy was generally well tolerated. No fatal complications, malignancies, autoimmune diseases, neurologic or cardiovascular complications were observed in the cohort during the study period. Overall, adverse events were observed in 10 patients: 2 patients showed an acute infusion reaction, 1 patient a serum sickness-like reaction, in 4 patients a bacterial or viral infection occurred, in 1 patient pancytopenia and 2 patients developed surgical complications. Only 6 patients with adverse events required admission to hospital. A case of tuberculosis after infliximab was not found. The lack of adverse side-effects was associated with young median age and infrequent comorbidities of the cohort.
Conclusion: Regarding its strong immunomodulating capacity, infliximab appears to be an efficient and relatively safe therapeutic option for patients with severe IBD. However, the use of infliximab requires careful screening and close patient monitoring to identify patients at risk and the infrequent, but sometimes serious complications of infliximab.