‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’
Perhaps, the above sentiment is needed for patients with ulcerative colitis who are doing well with infliximab therapy according to a recent study (G Fiorino et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2016; 14: 1426-32).
In this multicenter retrospective cohort study, 111 patients with ulcerative colitis who had been in remission (>12 months) were followed after stopping infliximab (IFX) and compared with 82 controls who remained on therapy. Here’s what happened (see Figure 1 in study):
- Among those who discontinued IFX, 53 patients (47.7%) relapsed in the followup period. This corresponded to an incidence of 23.3 per 100 person-years and with a median time to relapse of 3.6 years.
- In comparison, for those who remained on IFX, 14 relapses (17.1%) occurred which corresponded to an incidence of 7.2 per 100 person-years at risk and with a median time to relapse of 7.6 years.
- Thiopurine use after stopping IFX seemed to diminish the risk of relapse: 15.0 per 100 person-years compared with 31.2 per 100 person-years for those taking an aminosalicylate alone.
- For those who restarted IFX, 77.1% had a response and 51.4% returned to remission; however, 17.1% had infusion reactions.
My take: In a real-life experience, stopping IFX in patients with ulcerative colitis who had been in sustained clinical remission resulted in a higher relapse rate. This finding is consistent with other studies.
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