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New Pill Appears Effective, Safe for Ulcerative Colitis: Study
Date:8/15/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental drug called tofacitinib reduces the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, at least in the short term. The drug appears relatively safe, with few serious side effects, a new study found.

More than three-quarters of those taking the highest dose of the drug -- which is given as a pill -- had a response to the medication, and 41 percent of these patients achieved a remission, according to the study.

"Tofacitinib . . . affects a group of proteins expressed in the white blood cells. It has a suppressive effect on the immune system," explained the study's lead author, Dr. William Sandborn, chief of gastroenterology and head of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at the University of California, San Diego.

"Ulcerative colitis leads to rectal bleeding, diarrhea and other symptoms that affect a patient's quality of life. The immune system is attacking the colon in ulcerative colitis, and the theory behind this drug is that you would block the function of the immune system cells that are causing the problems and lead to an improvement in the disease," Sandborn said.

Results of the study are published in the Aug. 16 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The drug's manufacturer, Pfizer, provided funding for the study, and Pfizer researchers were involved in the design and implementation of the study, according to Sandborn.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the colon that affects about 700,000 Americans, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. The treatment options for the disease are somewhat limited, and the treatments that are available, such as corticosteroids, have many unwanted side effects. Drugs may be used to bring a flare-up of ulcerative colitis into remission or to maintain a remission. Corticosteroids are generally used to induce a remission, but not mai
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