Published online Mar 7, 2019. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v25.i9.1142
Peer-review started: December 21, 2018
First decision: January 6, 2019
Revised: January 28, 2019
Accepted: February 15, 2019
Article in press: February 15, 2019
Published online: March 7, 2019
Despite the advent of biological drugs, conventional therapy continues to be used in moderate to severe inflammatory bowel disease (MS-IBD). This study hypothesized that as a standard of treatment and the primary alternative to biologics, conventional therapy should present robust effectiveness results in IBD outcomes.
To investigate the effectiveness of conventional therapy for MS-IBD.
A systematic review with no time limit was conducted in July 2017 through the Cochrane Collaboration, MEDLINE, and LILACS databases. The inclusion criteria encompassed meta-analyses, systematic reviews, randomized clinical trials, observational and case-control studies concerning conventional therapy in adult patients with MS-IBD, including Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Corticosteroids (prednisone, hydrocortisone, budesonide, prednisolone, dexamethasone), 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) derivatives (mesalazine and sulfasalazine) and immunosuppressants [azathioprine (AZA), methotrexate (MTX), mycophenolate, cyclosporine, tacrolimus, 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP)] were considered conventional therapy. The exclusion criteria were sample size below 50; narrative reviews; specific subpopulations (e.g., pregnant women, comorbidities); studies on postoperative IBD; and languages other than English, Spanish, French or Portuguese. The primary outcome measures were clinical remission (induction or maintenance), clinical response and mucosal healing. As secondary outcomes, fecal calprotectin, hospitalization, death, and surgeries were analyzed. The quality of the evidence was assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation criteria.
The search strategy identified 1995 citations, of which 27 were considered eligible (7 meta-analyses, 20 individual studies). For induction of clinical remission, four meta-analyses were selected (AZA and 6-MP showed no advantage over placebo, MTX or 5-ASA in CD; MTX showed no statistically significant difference versus placebo, 6-MP, or 5-ASA in UC; tacrolimus was superior to placebo for UC in two meta-analyses). Only one meta-analysis evaluated clinical remission maintenance, showing no statistically significant difference between MTX and placebo, 5-ASA, or 6-MP in UC. AZA and 6-MP had no advantage over placebo in induction of clinical response in CD. Three meta-analyses showed the superiority of tacrolimus vs placebo for induction of clinical response in UC. The clinical response rates for cyclosporine were 41.7% in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and 55.4% in non-RCTs for UC. For induction of mucosal healing, one meta-analysis showed a favorable rate with tacrolimus versus placebo for UC. For secondary outcomes, no meta-analyses specifically evaluated fecal calprotectin, hospitalization or death. Two meta-analyses were retrieved evaluating colectomy rates for tacrolimus and cyclosporine in UC. Most of the twenty individual studies retrieved contained a low or very low quality of evidence.
High-quality evidence assessing conventional therapy in MS-IBD treatment is scarce, especially for remission maintenance, mucosal healing and fecal calprotectin.
Core tip: Despite the advent of biological drugs, conventional therapy continues to be used in moderate to severe inflammatory bowel disease (MS-IBD), especially in countries where biologics are not covered by insurance. In this systematic review, the effectiveness of conventional therapy for MS-IBD is assessed. There are few studies concerning objective outcomes, especially for remission maintenance, mucosal healing and fecal calprotectin. Additionally, studies are mainly of very low or low quality. As conventional therapy is usually the main therapy for MS-IBD and biologics are used in patients who fail to respond to conventional drugs, robust studies are required to further our understanding of the effectiveness of conventional therapy because it is prescribed to many IBD patients.