Medication Options for Crohn’s Disease

Successful medical treatment allows your intestinal tissue to heal and it helps relieve symptoms such as fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.


There are several groups of drugs used to treat Crohn’s disease. Some of these options are used to get your symptoms under control, which is known as inducing remission. Medical therapy, also called maintaining remission or maintenance, is used to decrease the frequency of Crohn’s flares.

You and your health care provider are partners in your health. This list of common Crohn’s medications can help you begin an informed discussion with your doctor.

Aminosalicylates (5-ASA)

These include medications that contain 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA). These drugs are not specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in Crohn’s, yet they can work to decrease inflammation in the lining of the GI tract.

Aminosalicylates are thought to be effective in treating mild-to-moderate episodes of Crohn’s disease and useful as a maintenance treatment in preventing relapses of the disease. They work best in the colon and are not particularly effective if the disease is limited to the small intestine.

Examples

  • Sulfasalazine

  • Mesalamine

  • Olsalazine

  • Balsalazide

Aminosalicylates

Video Length 00:01:04

Aminosalicylates Aminosalicylates are compounds that contain 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) and reduce inflammation in the lining of the intestine. Watch this video to learn more.

 

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids suppress the immune system and are used to treat moderate to severely active Crohn's disease. These drugs work non-specifically, meaning that they suppress the entire immune response, rather than targeting specific parts of the immune system that cause inflammation.

Corticosteroids have significant short- and long-term side effects and should not be used as a maintenance medication. If you cannot come off steroids without suffering a relapse of your symptoms, your doctor may need to prescribe other medications to help manage your disease.

Examples

These medications are available orally and rectally.

  • Prednisone

  • Methylprednisolone

Corticosteroids for IBD

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Corticosteroids for IBD Corticosteroids are powerful and fast-acting anti-inflammatory drugs that have been frequently used in the treatment of acute flare-ups of IBD. Watch this video to learn more.

 

Immunomodulators

This class of medications modulates or suppresses the body’s immune system response so it cannot cause ongoing inflammation. Immunomodulators, which may take several months to begin working, are generally are used when aminosalicylates and corticosteroids haven’t been effective, or have been only partially effective.

These medications may be useful in reducing or eliminating the need for corticosteroids, and in maintaining remission in people who haven’t responded to other medications given for this purpose.

Examples

  • Azathioprine

  • 6-mercaptopurine

  • Cyclosporine

  • Tacrolimus

Immunomodulators for IBD

Video Length 00:01:10

Immunomodulators for IBD Immunomodulators weaken or modulate the activity of the immune system. And are medications often used to treat people with IBD. Watch this video to learn more.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics may be to treat bacterial infections in the GI tract. Infections in Crohn’s disease can include abscesses and fistulas around the anal canal and vagina.

Examples

  • Metronidazole

  • Ampicillin

  • Ciprofloxacin

Antibiotics for IBD

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Antibiotics for IBD Antibiotics are frequently used as a primary treatment approach primarily in Crohn’s disease and with particular complications in IBD. Watch this video to learn more.

Biologic/Biosimilar Therapies

These medications are the latest class of therapy for people with Crohn's disease who have not responded well to conventional therapy. Biologics are antibodies grown in the laboratory that stop certain proteins in the body from causing inflammation.

Examples

  • Adalimumab

  • Certolizumab pegol

  • Infliximab

  • Natalizumab

  • Ustekinumab

  • Vedolizumab

Biologics for IBD

Video Length 00:01:21

Biologics for IBD Biologics are antibodies grown in the laboratory that stop specific proteins in the body from causing inflammation. Their mechanisms of action are more precisely targeted to the factors responsible for IBD.

Biosimilars are nearly identical copies of other already approved biologic therapies. They have the same effectiveness and safety as the originally approved biological therapy, in the target patient population. Learn about recently approved biosimilars.

Examples

  • Infliximab-abda

  • Infliximab-dyyb

  • Infliximab-qbtx

 

Have you been affected by step therapy? Step therapy is a health insurance practice that may require you to try and fail on a medication before providing coverage for your originally prescribed treatment. Learn more about step therapy and what you can do to advocate for your health.

Related Resources

Fact sheet

Aminosalicylates...

Details on how aminosalicylates work to reduce IBD inflammation.