The introduction of biological agents (i.e. antitumour necrosis factor-α and anti-integrin treatments) for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) [i.e. Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis] has led to a substantial change in the treatment algorithms and guidelines, especially in CD. However, many questions still remain about the true efficacy and the best treatment regimens. Thus, a need for further treatment options still exists as up to 40% of IBD patients treated with the presently available biologicals do not have positive clinical responses. Better patient selection might maximize the clinical benefit for those in most need of an effective therapy to avoid disabling disease whilst also minimizing the complications associated with therapy. Further, the 'trough-level strategy' may help clinicians to optimize therapy and to avoid loss of response and/or immunogenicity. The idea behind this dosage regimen is that correct dosing must ensure that the patient's lowest level of drug concentration (i.e. the trough level) occurring just before the next drug administration is high enough for the full effect to be seen. Controversy continues regarding the appropriate use of biologicals; therefore, in this review, we focus on considerations that might lead to a more rational strategy for antitumour necrosis factor-α agents in IBD, emphasizing the situations in which the risks may outweigh the benefits. Finally, the need for an appropriate strategy for stopping biological treatment is discussed.
© 2011 The Association for the Publication of the Journal of Internal Medicine.