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New Drug Controls Crohn’s Disease

August 5, 1998

People who suffer from mild to moderate Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract, get more relief from a new drug than the standard treatment, researchers found.

The study published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine found that 9 milligrams daily of slow-release budesonide led to remission of the disease in 69 percent of patients after eight weeks. Mesalamine capsules, the standard treatment, caused remission in 45 percent.

The effect of both drugs decreased slightly after 16 weeks of treatment.

Crohn’s disease affects an estimated 500,000 Americans. Symptoms may include pain, fever, diarrhea and weight loss.

Moderate to severe cases are treated with corticosteroids that can have serious side effects, including suppression of the immune system, excessive hair growth, cataracts and glaucoma.

Budesonide is a new corticosteroid that is less easily absorbed and causes fewer side effects, making it safe enough for patients with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease, Drs. Stephen Bickston and Fabio Cominelli, of the University of Virginia, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

Budesonide, sold as Entocort by Astra Draco of Sweden, has not been approved yet by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The study, led by Dr. Ole Ostergaard Thomsen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, was paid for by Astra Draco and carried out at 25 hospitals and clinics in several countries.

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