Prospective randomised controlled trial of adults with perianal fistulising Crohn's disease and optimised therapeutic infliximab levels: PROACTIVE trial study protocol

BMJ Open. 2021 Jul 1;11(7):e043921. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-043921.


Introduction: Perianal fistulising Crohn's disease (pfCD) can be somewhat treatment refractory. Higher infliximab trough levels (TLIs) may improve fistula healing rates; however, it remains unclear whether escalating infliximab therapy to meet higher TLI targets using proactive, or routine, therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) improves outcomes. This randomised controlled trial aimed to assess whether infliximab therapy targeting higher TLIs guided by proactive TDM improves outcomes compared with standard therapy.

Methods and analysis: Patients with active pfCD will be randomised 1:1 to either the proactive TDM arm or standard dosing arm and followed up for 54 weeks. Patients in the proactive TDM arm will have infliximab dosing optimised to target higher TLIs. The targets will be TLI ≥ 25 µg/mL at week 2, ≥ 20 µg/mL at week 6 and ≥ 10 µg/mL during maintenance therapy. The primary objective will be fistula healing at week 32. Secondary objectives will include fistula healing, fistula closure, radiological fistula healing, patient-reported outcomes and economic costs up to 54 weeks. Patients in the standard dosing arm will receive conventional infliximab dosing not guided by TLIs (5 mg/kg at weeks 0, 2 and 6, and 5 mg/kg 8 weekly thereafter). Patients aged 18-80 years with pfCD with single or multiple externally draining complex perianal fistulas who are relatively naïve to infliximab treatment will be included. Patients with diverting ileostomies or colostomies and pregnant or breast feeding will be excluded. Fifty-eight patients per arm will be required to detect a 25% difference in the primary outcome measure, with 138 patients needed to account for an estimated 6.1% primary non-response rate and 10% dropout rate.

Ethics and dissemination: Results will be presented in peer-reviewed journals and international conferences. Ethics approval has been granted by the South Western Sydney Local Health District Human Research Ethics Committee in Australia.

Trial registration number: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12621000023853); Pre-results.

Keywords: clinical trials; inflammatory bowel disease; protocols & guidelines.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial Protocol

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Crohn Disease* / complications
  • Crohn Disease* / drug therapy
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Infliximab / therapeutic use
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rectal Fistula* / drug therapy
  • Rectal Fistula* / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Gastrointestinal Agents
  • Infliximab