Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease: a review of medical therapy

World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Jan 21;14(3):354-77. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.354.


Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are chronic inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. While a cure remains elusive, both can be treated with medications that induce and maintain remission. With the recent advent of therapies that inhibit tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha the overlap in medical therapies for UC and CD has become greater. Although 5-ASA agents have been a mainstay in the treatment of both CD and UC, the data for their efficacy in patients with CD, particularly as maintenance therapy, are equivocal. Antibiotics may have a limited role in the treatment of colonic CD. Steroids continue to be the first choice to treat active disease not responsive to other more conservative therapy; non-systemic steroids such as oral and rectal budesonide for ileal and right-sided CD and distal UC respectively are also effective in mild-moderate disease. 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP) and its prodrug azathioprine are steroid-sparing immunomodulators effective in the maintenance of remission of both CD and UC, while methotrexate may be used in both induction and maintenance of CD. Infliximab and adalimumab are anti-TNF agents approved in the US and Europe for the treatment of Crohn's disease, and infliximab is also approved for the treatment of UC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aminosalicylic Acids / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Blood Component Removal
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Nicotine / therapeutic use
  • Nicotinic Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use
  • Remission Induction
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Trichuris / metabolism


  • Aminosalicylic Acids
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Steroids
  • Nicotine
  • Curcumin