Iron Metabolism Improves after Anti-TNF Therapy for Crohn’s Disease

A previous study has shown that low vitamin D levels improved with anti-TNF therapy for Crohn’s disease in the absence of supplemental vitamin D.  Similarly, a recent study (MA Atkinson, MB Leonare, R Herskovitz, RN Baldassano, MR Denburg. JPGN 2018; 66: 90-4) showed improvement in iron metabolism with anti-TNF therapy.

In 40 children and adolescents with Crohn’s disease, the authors measured serum hepcidin-25 and hemoglobin at baseline and then 10 weeks after anti-TNF therapy.

Key findings:

  • Median hepcidin concentrations decreased (27.9–>23.2 ng/mL) and mean hemoglobin increased (10.6–>10.9).
  • Disease activity and markers of inflammation also decreased.

My take: This study shows that improvement in inflammation is associated with meaningful improvement in anemia.  However, most patients will need additional treatment for anemia, particularly as anemia may be related to blood loss in addition to anemia of chronic disease/inflammation.

Related blog posts:



Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis Identified After Colectomy in Presumed Ulcerative Colitis

A recent retrospective single-center study (I Jones et al. JPGN 2018; 66: 69-72) identified a high rate of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) reclassification.  From 2003-2014, 570 children were diagnosed with IBD, including 190 with ulcerative colitis.  29 of these patients underwent colectomy.  Among this select group, 24% (7/29) were subsequently reclassified as having Crohn’s disease, sometimes several years later.  Only two of the seven reclassified patients were younger than 10 years of age at the time of colectomy.

My take: This rate of Crohn’s disease following colectomy is higher than in previous reports (generally 5-10%).  The larger point is that the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is more uncertain in the pediatric population, particularly in those in the first decade of life.

Related blog posts:

Near Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon

Increasing Cost/Use of Biologic Therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

As noted in a previous blog post (Changes in the Use of IBD Biologic Therapy), there has been an increased use of biologic therapy early in the course of patient’s with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Another retrospective study (H Yu et al AP&T 2018; 47: 364-70 -thanks to Ben Gold for this reference) examines the market share and costs of biologic therapy for IBD using the Truven Marketscan Commercial Claims and Encounters database (2007-2015).  This database consists of out-patient and in-patient pharmaceutical claims of approximately 40-50 million privately insured patients each year from patients from all 50 states (U.S.).

Key findings:

  • Among 415,405 patients with IBD (188,842 with Crohn’s, 195,183 with ulcerative colitis, 31,380 with indeterminate IBD), the proportion using biologics increased over the 9-year period (2007-2015); overall, the market share increase was from 7.1% (2007) to 20.5% (2015).
  • There were 28,797 pediatric patients with IBD (17,296 with Crohn’s, 9368 with ulcerative colitis, and 2133 with indeterminate colitis). The overall market share in pediatric patients was the highest, increasing from 19.1% to 45.9%.
  • For all patients with Crohn’s disease (CD) the proportion receiving biologic therapy increased from 21.8% to 43.8%.  For patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), the proportion increased from 5.1% to 16.2%.
  • Per-member per-year (PMPY) costs increased. “The average biologic-taking patient accounted for $25,275 PMPY in 2007 and $36,051 PMPY in 2015.”  This was similar in the pediatric population, going from $23,616 PMPY in 2007 to $41,109 PMPY in 2015.
  • The share of costs of medicines: the costs of biologics as a share of the total increased from 72.9% in 2007 to 85.7% in 2015. 95% of the pharmacy costs in children with IBD are attributed to biologics.

My take: This trend of increasing use of biologics and their associated costs is going to continue due to their effectiveness. While there are direct costs related to these medications, the net cost is unclear as they can prevent hospitalizations and surgeries. In addition, by helping to spare corticosteroids and increasing response rates, biologic therapies improve quality of life, minimize opportunity loss, and optimize long-term health outcomes.

Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon


Ketchup Packet Ingestion–Crohn’s Disease Mimic

In the category of –“I have not seen that before”…

Link: NY Daily News Women diagnosed with Crohn’s disease actually had ketchup packet in her intestines for six years (Thanks to my son for pointing out this story)

An excerpt:

A woman believed she was suffering from Crohn’s disease for six years until doctors performed surgery and discovered a ketchup packet in the lining of her intestine.

The 41-year-old patient had symptoms consistent with the serious bowel disease — including acute abdominal pain and bloating lasting up to three days — but she did not respond to the standard treatments.

Case study reference: Visagan R, et al. BMJ Case Rep 2013. doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-009603

Related blog post: Add it to the list


CALM Study: Tight Control Improves Outcomes in Crohn’s Disease

A recent study (JF Colombel et al. Lancet 2017; ) shows that “tight control” improves outcomes in Crohn’s disease.  This study was alluded to in a previous post: CCFA 2017 Updates (part 2)

Background: The CALM study was an open-label, randomized study.  122 adult patients were randomized to typical clinical management and 122 patients received “tight control” in which treatment was modified by fecal calprotectin (≥250 mcg/g) and CRP (≥ 0.5 mg/dL) values in addition to clinical symptoms.

Treatment was escalated in both groups in a stepwise manner.  Initial treatment was with adalimumab induction and then every other week. If patient did not meet treatment objectives, which differed in the groups, then adalimumab would be given every week, and then, if still needed, azathioprine would be added. Interestingly, both groups had ~25% of participants who were smokers which is known to worsen outcomes.

Key Findings:

  • Mucosal healing (CDEIS <4) was significantly improved in tight control group at week 48: 46% vs. 30%.
  • Similarly, steroid-free remission based on CDAI <150 was better in tight control group compared with standard treatment at week 48: 59.8% vs. 39.3%.  Endoscopic response was 50.8% compared with 40.2% respectively.

My take (1st part borrowed from authors): “Tight control of inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease, with objective markers of disease activity  and clinical symptoms to drive treatment decisions, achieved better endoscopic and clinical outcomes than conventional care based on symptoms alone.” Yet, there are a large number who do not respond adequately and better treatments in these patients are needed.

As an aside, these response rates based on objective markers are far lower than the remission rates claimed by ImproveCareNow; thus, while ImproveCareNow is forward-thinking and helping improve outcomes with inflammatory bowel disease, we need to be careful about citing remission rate trends that are not directly linked to objective markers.

NY Times: Humira’s Best-Selling Drug Formula: Start at a High Price. Go Higher.

NY Times: Humira’s Best-Selling Drug Formula: Start at a High Price. Go Higher.

An excerpt:

Humira is the best-selling prescription drug in the world…The price of Humira, an anti-inflammatory drug dispensed in an injectable pen, has risen from about $19,000 a year in 2012, to more than $38,000 today, per patient, after rebates, according to SSR Health, a research firm. That’s an increase of 100 percent…

How much you actually pay out of pocket, and whether you can afford Humira at all, depend on your insurance and eligibility for discounts…

Humira, which accounted for nearly two-thirds of AbbVie’s $25.6 billion in revenue in 2016, was not simple to develop. It is among a new class of drugs known as biologics, which are made from living cells rather than synthetic chemicals…

Looking at the international picture tells its own story about drug costs. A prefilled carton with two syringes costs $2,669 in the United States, compared with $1,362 in Britain, $822 in Switzerland and $552 in South Africa…

An analysis by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review found that Humira’s list price would need to be discounted by at least 55 percent to be cost effective for rheumatoid arthritis, its originally approved use.

Dr. Steven D. Pearson, the founder of the institute, which provides cost benefit data to health plans, said competing drugs were overpriced as well.

“Even in a space like this, where there is a lot of competition, we don’t see the prices coming down,” he said. “That speaks to the fact that it doesn’t often function like a free market usually would.”..

AbbVie joined a few of its rivals in saying it would limit price increases to single digits this year, and so only raised Humira by another 9.7 percent this month, roughly four and a half times the inflation rate. For the drug industry, that counts as generosity.

My take: Humira is a very important and effective medication, particularly for inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. I infer from this article which compares the Humira pricing strategy to that used by Martin Shkreli that if U.S. consumers are to have more affordable pharmaceuticals, government intervention will be needed. AbbVie, like many other pharmaceutical companies, will continue to aggressively price Humira; after all, 8 billion in profits is not as good as 10 billion.

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Therapeutic Drug Monitoring for Vedolizumab

A recent observational study (N Williet et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2017; 15: 1750-7) provides some important information about where we are heading with regard to therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) with vedolizumab (VDZ).

This study enrolled 47 consecutive patients with either Crohn’s disease (CD, n=31) or ulcerative colitis (UC, n=16). In those without a clinical response at week 6, an additional dose of 300 mg of VDZ was administered at week 10.

Key findings:

  • VDZ levels were higher in responders than in nonresponders, which is in agreement with previous studies ( (NEJM 2013; 369: 711-21, NEJM 2013; 369: 699-710)
  • A low therapeutic drug level as early as week 2 (<24.5 mcg/mL) and at the end of induction (week 6) (<18.5 mcg/mL) was associated with the need for drug optimization within 6 months in all patients
  • All patients with a level <19.0 mcg/mL at week 6, regained a secondary response after optimization at week 10.
  • The authors note that in the GEMINI trial, anti-VDZ antibodies were detected in 56 of 1434 patients (3.7%).  In this cohort, no anti-VDZ were detected using the same methods.

My take: Low trough levels of VDZ at week 6 are associated with the need for drug optimization/increased dosing.