Many placebo controlled trials and meta-analyses evaluated the efficacy of different drugs for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including immunosuppressants and biologics. Their use is indicated in moderate to severe disease in non responders to corticosteroids and in steroid-dependent patients, as induction and maintainance treatment. Infliximab, as well as cyclosporine, is considered a second line therapy in the case of severe ulcerative colitis, or non-responders to intravenous corticosteroids. An adequate dosage and duration of therapy with thiopurines should be reached before evaluating their efficacy. Methotrexate is a valid option in patients with Crohn's disease but its use is confined to patients who are intolerant or non-responders to thiopurines. Evidence for the use of methotrexate in ulcerative colitis is insufficient. The use of thalidomide and mycophenolate mofetil is not recommended in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, these treatments could be considered in case of failure of all other therapeutic options. In patients with moderately active ulcerative colitis, refractory to thiopurines, the use of tacrolimus is considered an alternative to biologics. An increase of the dose or a decrease in the interval of administration of biological treatment could be useful in the presence of an incomplete clinical response. In the case of primary failure of an anti-tumor necrosis factor alpha a switch to another one should be considered. Data on the efficacy of combination therapy are up to now insufficient to consider this strategy in all IBD patients. The final outcome of the treatment should be considered the clinical remission, with mucosa healing, and not the clinical response. The evaluation of serum concentration of thiopurine methyl transferase activity, thiopurine metabolites, biologic serum levels and antibiologic antibodies could be useful for the management of the treatment but it has not been routinely applied in clinical practice. The evidence of high risk development of lymphoma and cutaneous malignancies should be considered in patients treated with immunosuppressants and biologics for a long period.
Keywords: Biologics; Crohn’s disease; Immosuppressants; Inflammatory bowel disease; Optimization; Ulcerative colitis.