Background: There is an unmet need for safe and effective medicines to treat children with Crohn's disease. Recently, investigations have shown an association between endogenous opioid peptides and inflammatory cells.
Aims: The aims of this study were to evaluate the safety and tolerability of an opioid antagonist, naltrexone, in children with moderate to severe Crohn's disease.
Methods: A pilot clinical trial was conducted in children with moderate to severe Crohn's disease. Fourteen subjects with a mean age of 12.3 years (range, 8 to 17 y) were enrolled. Children were randomized to placebo or naltrexone (0.1 mg/kg) orally for 8 weeks followed by open-labeled treatment with 8 additional weeks of naltrexone. Safety and toxicity were monitored by physical examinations and blood chemistries. Clinical activity was assessed by the Pediatric Crohn's Disease Activity Index (PCDAI) and Quality of life was monitored by the Impact III survey.
Results: Oral naltrexone was well tolerated without any serious adverse events in children with moderate to severe Crohn's disease. PCDAI scores significantly decreased from pretreatment values (34.2±3.3) with an 8-week course of naltrexone therapy (21.7±3.9) (P=0.005). Twenty-five percent of those treated with naltrexone were considered in remission (score ≤10) and 67% had improved with mild disease activity (decrease in PCDAI score by at least 10 points) at the end of the study. Systemic and social quality of life improved with naltrexone treatment (P=0.035).
Conclusions: Naltrexone therapy seems safe with limited toxicity when given to children with Crohn's disease and may reduce disease activity.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00715117.