The Evolving Role of Thiopurines in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol. 2019 Sep;17(3):420-433. doi: 10.1007/s11938-019-00244-3.


Purpose of review: With the advent of biologic therapies for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, the roles of thiopurines have continued to evolve. This review will focus on recent advances in pharmacology and the safety and efficacy of thiopurines as maintenance therapies for steroid-induced remissions and post-surgical maintenance of remission and as combination therapies to reduce immunogenicities of biologic agents.

Recent findings: Due to pharmacogenetics of thiopurine S-methyltransferase, thiopurine dosing is more effectively based on monitoring of thiopurine metabolites rather than weight-based dosing. Thiopurines continue to have a role as maintenance therapy after steroid-induced remissions and in combination with biologics to induce and maintain remission. Safety monitoring includes measurements of blood counts, liver chemistries, and dermatologic evaluations and protection from sun exposure. Thiopurines appear to be safe during pregnancies and while very uncommon, lymphomas (including hepatosplenic T cell lymphomas) remain a recognized risk, particularly in younger and older males.

Keywords: Immunogenicity; Inflammatory bowel disease; Steroid-induced remission; Steroids; TPMT; Thiopurines.

Publication types

  • Review