Cyclosporine and infliximab as rescue therapy for each other in patients with steroid-refractory ulcerative colitis

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008 Oct;6(10):1112-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2008.04.035.


Background & aims: In patients with severe corticosteroid-refractory ulcerative colitis, cyclosporine or infliximab may be added in an effort to induce remission. If the patient then fails either of these drugs, it is unknown whether success can be achieved by using the other agent. The aim of this study was to assess outcomes of using cyclosporine after failure of infliximab, and vice versa.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the charts of 19 patients with corticosteroid-refractory ulcerative colitis who received either infliximab after failed cyclosporine or cyclosporine after failed infliximab. Acute salvage therapy was defined as having received the alternate drug within 4 weeks of discontinuing the first agent.

Results: Ten patients received infliximab after failing cyclosporine; 9 patients received cyclosporine after failing infliximab. Four patients (40%) in the infliximab-salvage group achieved remission, as did 3 (33%) in the cyclosporine-salvage group. Remission lasted a mean of 10.4 months (range, 4.4-17.03 mo) and 28.5 months (range, 5.0-41.5 mo), respectively. Severe adverse events included one patient who developed sepsis and died after receiving infliximab salvage. One patient who received cyclosporine salvage developed herpetic esophagitis, and another patient who received cyclosporine salvage developed pancreatitis and bacteremia.

Conclusions: In patients with severe corticosteroid-refractory ulcerative colitis who fail treatment with either cyclosporine or infliximab, remission rates using acute salvage therapy by crossing over to the other drug occur in approximately one third of patients and have limited duration. Serious adverse events occurred in 16%, including 1 death, suggesting that the risks of acute salvage therapy may outweigh the benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / adverse effects
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Bacteremia / chemically induced
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Cyclosporine / adverse effects
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Infliximab
  • Male
  • Pancreatitis / chemically induced
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salvage Therapy / methods*
  • Sepsis / chemically induced
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine
  • Infliximab