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Thiopurine withdrawal during sustained clinical remission in inflammatory bowel disease: relapse and recapture rates, with predictive factors in 237 patients

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Carl Gamble, Dr Chris LambORCiD, Dr John Mansfield



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


BackgroundThiopurines (azathioprine and mercaptopurine) remain integral to most medical strategies for maintaining remission in Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). Indefinite use of these drugs is tempered by long-term risks. While clinical relapse is noted frequently following drug withdrawal, there are few published data on predictive factors.AimTo investigate the success of planned thiopurine withdrawal in patients in sustained clinical remission to identify rates and predictors of relapse.MethodsThis was a multicentre retrospective cohort study from 11 centres across the UK. Patients included had a definitive diagnosis of IBD, continuous thiopurine use 3years and withdrawal when in sustained clinical remission. All patients had a minimum of 12months follow-up post drug withdrawal. Primary and secondary end points were relapse at 12 and 24months respectively.Results237 patients were included in the study (129 CD; 108 UC). Median duration of thiopurine use prior to withdrawal was 6.0years (interquartile range 4.4-8.4). At follow-up, moderate/severe relapse was observed in 23% CD and 12% UC patients at 12months, 39% CD and 26% UC at 24months. Relapse rate at 12months was significantly higher in CD than UC (P=0.035). Elevated CRP at withdrawal was associated with higher relapse rates at 12months for CD (P=0.005), while an elevated white cell count was predictive at 12months for UC (P=0.007).ConclusionThiopurine withdrawal in the context of sustained remission is associated with a 1-year moderate-to-severe relapse rate of 23% in Crohn's disease and 12% in ulcerative colitis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kennedy NA, Kalla R, Warner B, Gambles CJ, Musy R, Reynolds S, Dattani R, Nayee H, Felwick R, Harris R, Marriott S, Senanayake SM, Lamb CA, Al-Hilou H, Gaya DR, Irving PM, Mansfield J, Parkes M, Ahmad T, Cummings JRF, Arnott ID, Satsangi J, Lobo AJ, Smith M, Lindsay JO, Lees CW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Year: 2014

Volume: 40

Issue: 11-12

Pages: 1313-1323

Print publication date: 01/12/2014

Online publication date: 06/10/2014

Acceptance date: 14/09/2014

Date deposited: 08/01/2019

ISSN (print): 0269-2813

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2036

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/apt.12980


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Funder referenceFunder name
093885/Z/10/ZWellcome Trust
097943Wellcome Trust