1Hepatology, Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, Piazza S. Onofrio 4, 00165 Rome, Italy.
Thalidomide has anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenetic activity that makes it suitable for treating inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The recent guidelines from the European Crohn's and Colitis Organization/European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition conclude that thalidomide cannot be recommended in refractory pediatric Crohn's disease but that it may be considered in selected cohorts of patients who are not anti-TNFα agent responders. The main adverse effect is the potential teratogenicity that renders the long-term use of thalidomide problematic in young adults due to the strict need for contraceptive use. In short-term use it is relatively safe; the most likely adverse effect is the neuropathy, which is highly reversible in children. So far the use of thalidomide is reported in 223 adult and pediatric IBD patients (206 with Crohn's disease). In the following sections, the authors will discuss efficacy and safety of thalidomide, in the short-term treatment of IBD.