Review article: maintenance therapy in patients with ulcerative colitis.
Orchard T., Probert CS., Keshav S.
British Society of Gastroenterology guidelines recommend that all patients with ulcerative colitis should receive long-term therapy with a 5-aminosalicylic acid compound to maintain remission. Recent studies have shown that time spent in remission is longer when the maintenance dose is increased from 1.2 to 2.4 g/day, with patients with extensive disease benefiting most from an increase with dosage. A retrospective analysis also found that the frequency of relapse was lower in patients taking more than the median dose of 5-aminosalicylic acid (1.6 g/day) compared with those taking less than the median dose. Similarly, when 5-aminosalicylic acids are used to induce remission, continuing the induction dosage for an extra 4 weeks prolongs remission and reduces the frequency of relapse. However, patients rarely comply fully with the prescribed dose regimen, which can lead to effective under-dosing. The recent discovery that 5-aminosalicylic acids may act in ulcerative colitis by activating peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma, a nuclear receptor that plays a role in the control of cell proliferation and apoptosis, has given new impetus to the idea that long-term therapy with 5-aminosalicylic acid may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Epidemiological studies are beginning to provide evidence to support this view. Accumulating evidence suggests that the next revision of the clinical guidelines should suggest life-long doses of 5-aminosalicylic acid of > or =2 g/day for maintenance of remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.