The role of mesalamine in the treatment of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory condition of unclear etiology affecting the large bowel, most commonly the rectum and extending proximally in a continuous fashion. The overall principle in the pathophysiolgy of ulcerative colitis is the dysregulation of the normal immune system against an antigenic trigger leading to a prolonged mucosal inflammatory response. The diagnosing of UC is made by combining the clinical picture, tissue biopsy with the endoscopic appearance of mucosal ulceration, friable, edematous, erythematous granular appearing mucus. The approach to therapy of UC has been dependent on severity of symptoms with frontline therapy being salicylate based sulfasalazine. Newer formulations of salicylates based drugs with fewer side-effects have been developed. These are free of the sulphur component and are composed of 5-ASA, without the sulfapyridine carrier molecule. Mesalamine is one of these 5-ASA based agents that are currently available and indicated for treatment of UC. In mild/moderate active disease mesalamine has response rates between 40%-70% and remission rates of 15%-20%. Considering that the efficacy of 5-ASA is dose dependent, 4.8 g/day and 2.4 g/day have been shown to be the optimal dosages for mild-moderate distal active disease and for maintenance therapy, respectively. Patients with moderately active ulcerative colitis treated with 4.8 g/d of mesalamine are significantly more likely to achieve overall improvement at week 6 compared to patients treated with 2.4 g/d. In the setting of left-sided distal colitis (proctitis), topical (rectal) formulations have been found to be superior to oral aminosalicylates at inducing remission. Mesalamine has been shown to be safe in short term use with a dose-response efficacy without dose-related toxicity.