Objective: Corticosteroids are used in patients with refractory celiac disease. In order to minimize their systemic side effects, we assessed the role of a locally active sustained release corticosteroid with minimal systemic bioavailability in patients with refractory celiac disease in an open labeled noncontrolled study.
Methods: Patients who received budesonide for refractory celiac disease were classified according to whether they were primarily or secondarily unresponsive to the diet, and whether they had a polyclonal (type I) or clonal (type II) expansion of intraepithelial lymphocytes. The response to budesonide was assessed globally and by reduction in bowel movements.
Results: Patients (N = 29, 72% female) received budesonide for a mean of 6.7 +/- 8.5 months, 5 patients (18%) had type II disease (clonal T-cell population); 76% responded to the medication, 55% completely. Response occurred when budesonide was used alone or with oral corticosteroids and/or azathioprine. There was an objective improvement in the number of bowel movements in those that responded. Response occurred in those with either primary or secondary refractory disease and in those with type II disease, irrespective of the presence of microscopic colitis (N = 7). There was no improvement in the duodenal biopsy over the study period and there were no side effects of budesonide.
Conclusions: Budesonide may be of value in the management of refractory celiac disease.