From the AGA Journals

AGA Guideline: Treatment of mild to moderate ulcerative colitis



For patients with extensive mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, numerous randomized controlled trials support the use of either standard-dose mesalamine (2-3 grams per day) or diazo-bonded 5-aminosalicylic acid (ASA) instead of low-dose mesalamine, sulfasalazine, or no therapy, state new guidelines from the American Gastroenterological Association, published in Gastroenterology.

ulcerative colitis ©selvanegra/

Sulfasalazine (2-4 grams per day) is less likely to be tolerated but remains a “reasonable option” for remitted patients who are already on it and for patients with prominent arthritis symptoms, especially if alternative treatments are cost prohibitive, wrote Cynthia W. Ko, MD, MS, of the University of Washington, Seattle, and her associates.

According to the guideline, patients with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis have less than four to six bowel movements per day, only mild or moderate rectal bleeding, no constitutional symptoms, and no high overall inflammatory burden or signs of high inflammatory activity on the Mayo Clinic score and Truelove and Witt’s criteria. These patients usually do not require colectomy, but this outcome is more likely when patients are diagnosed before age 40 years or have extensive disease or deep ulcers, extraintestinal manifestations, or elevated inflammatory markers. These higher-risk patients need more aggressive initial treatment and faster treatment intensification in cases of inadequate response, the guideline emphasizes. Even for cases of mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, treatment intensification is preferable to repeated courses of corticosteroids.

The guideline recommends adding rectal mesalamine to oral 5-ASA if patients have extensive or left-sided mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. In randomized controlled trials, this combination was significantly more likely to induce and maintain remission than was standard-dose oral mesalamine monotherapy, the authors noted. “In the maintenance trials, enemas were used twice per week or for 1 week per month. Both oral and topical mesalamine were well tolerated.”

For patients with moderate disease activity or a suboptimal response to standard-dose mesalamine or diazo-bonded 5-ASA, the guideline recommends adding rectal mesalamine to high-dose oral mesalamine (more than 3 grams daily). Combination therapy maximizes the delivery of mesalamine to the affected area of the colon, which optimizes the trial of 5-ASA before opting for treatment escalation, the authors noted. They recommend once-daily oral mesalamine dosing, since this is easier to adhere to and studies have found no benefit of more frequent dosing.

For inducing remission of mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, the guideline recommends standard-dose oral mesalamine or diazo-bonded 5-ASA over budesonide. “Overall, the budesonide preparations are not superior to mesalamine for induction of remission,” the authors wrote. Oral 5-ASAs are preferred, especially given the absence of data on the efficacy or safety of maintenance budesonide therapy.

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