Efficacy of Oral, Topical, or Combined Oral and Topical 5-Aminosalicylates, in Ulcerative Colitis: Systematic Review and Network Meta-analysis

J Crohns Colitis. 2021 Jul 5;15(7):1184-1196. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjab010.

Brigida Barberio 1, Jonathan P Segal 2, M Nabil Quraishi 3 4, Christopher J Black 5 6, Edoardo V Savarino 1, Alexander C Ford 5 6


Author information

1Department of Surgery, Oncology and Gastroenterology [DISCOG], Gastroenterology Unit, University of Padova-Azienda Ospedaliera di Padova, Padova, Italy.

2Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, St Mary's Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK.

3Department of Gastroenterology, University Hospitals Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.

4University of Birmingham Microbiome Treatment Centre, University of Birmingham, UK.

5Leeds Gastroenterology Institute, St James's University Hospital, Leeds, UK.

6Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St. James's, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.


Background: 5-Aminosalicylates [5-ASAs] are the mainstay of treatment for ulcerative colitis [UC]. The optimum preparation, dose, and route of administration for UC remain unclear. We conducted a network meta-analysis to examine this issue.

Methods: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, EMBASE Classic, and the Cochrane central register of controlled trials from inception to December 2020. We included randomised controlled trials [RCTs] comparing oral, topical, or combined oral and topical 5-ASAs, with each other or placebo for induction of remission or prevention of relapse of UC. Results were reported as pooled relative risks [RRs] with 95% confidence intervals [CIs] to summarise effect of each comparison tested, with treatments ranked according to P-score.

Results: We identified 40 RCTs for induction of remission and 23 for prevention of relapse. Topical mesalazine [P-score 0.99], or oral and topical mesalazine combined [P-score 0.87] ranked first and second for clinical and endoscopic remission combined. Combined therapy ranked first in trials where ≥50% of patients had left-sided/extensive disease, and topical mesalazine first in trials where ≥50% of patients had proctitis/proctosigmoiditis. High-dose [≥3.3 g/day] oral mesalazine ranked third in most analyses, with the most trials and most patients. For relapse of disease activity, combined therapy and high-dose oral mesalazine ranked first and second, with topical mesalazine third. 5-ASAs were safe and well tolerated, regardless of regimen.

Conclusions: Our results support previous evidence; however, higher doses of oral mesalazine had more evidence for induction of remission than combined therapy and were significantly more efficacious than lower doses. Future RCTs should better establish the role of combined therapy for induction of remission, as well as optimal doses of oral 5-ASAs to prevent relapse.

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