Should Methotrexate Be Used For Ulcerative Colitis?

A recent study (F Carbonnel et al. Gastroenterol http://dx.doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2015.10.050, article in press; thanks to KT Park twitter feed for reference) with 111 patients provides more questions than answers.  It appears that methotrexate improved clinical remission but the overall difference is fairly small; the abstract is below.

My initial impression: Immunomodulators (including methotrexate and thiopurines) have some efficacy as monotherapy agents in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Their role as part of combination therapy (with anti-TNF agents) has been associated with improved outcomes but how long to use combination therapy and at what dosage is still being worked out.

Here’s the abstract and a link: Methotrexate is not Superior to Placebo in Inducing Steroid-free Remission, but Induces Steroid-free Clinical Remission in a Larger Proportion of Patients with Ulcerative Colitis

Background & Aims

Parenteral methotrexate is an effective treatment for patients with Crohn’s disease but has never been adequately evaluated in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC). We conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine its safety and efficacy in patients with steroid-dependent UC.

Methods

We performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of parenteral methotrexate (25 mg/week) in 111 patients with corticosteroid-dependent UC at 26 medical centers in Europe, from 2007 through 2013. Patients were given prednisone (10 to 40 mg/day) when the study began, and randomly assigned to groups (1:1) given placebo or methotrexate (intramuscularly or subcutaneously, 25 mg weekly) for 24 weeks. The primary endpoint was steroid-free remission (defined as a Mayo score ≤ 2 with no item > 1 and complete withdrawal of steroids) at week 16. Secondary endpoints included clinical remission (defined as a Mayo clinical subscore ≤ 2 with no item > 1) and endoscopic healing without steroids at weeks 16 and/or 24, remission without steroids at week 24, and remission at both weeks 16 and 24.

Results

Steroid-free remission at week 16 was achieved by 19/60 patients given methotrexate (31.7%) and 10/51 patients given placebo (19.6%)—a difference of 12.1% (95% confidence interval [CI], –4.0% to 28.1%; P=.15). The proportions of patients in steroid-free clinical remission at week 16 were 41.7% in the methotrexate group and 23.5% in the placebo group, for a difference of 18.1% (95% CI, 1.1%–35.2%; P=.04). The proportions of patients with steroid-free endoscopic healing at week 16 were 35% in the methotrexate group and 25.5% in the placebo group—a difference of 9.5% (95% CI, –7.5% to 26.5%; P=.28). No differences were observed in other secondary endpoints. More patients receiving placebo discontinued the study because of adverse events (47.1%), mostly caused by UC, than patients receiving methotrexate (26.7%; P=.03). A higher proportion of patients in the methotrexate group had nausea and vomiting (21.7%) than in the placebo group (3.9%; P=.006).

Conclusions

In a randomized controlled trial, parenteral methotrexate was not superior to placebo for induction of steroid-free remission in patients with UC. However, methotrexate induced clinical remission without steroids in a significantly larger percentage of patients, resulting in fewer withdrawals from therapy due to active UC.

Related blog posts:

Banning Mills

Banning Mills

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