Rethinking top-down treatment?

Given the effectiveness of biologic therapy and the potential for disease modification, the threshold for “top-down” treatment has been lower at this time as compared with “step-up” treatment.  What about long-term outcomes, does starting soon increase or decrease the likelihood of doing well?  A recent study suggests that “early biologic therapy did not improve disease activity or quality of life” (Inflamm Bowel Dis 2013; 19: 1397-1403).

In this retrospective chart review involving 93 patient’s with Crohn’s disease (between 2004 and 2010), patients whose data was prospectively maintained were categorized into either early biologic therapy or a step-up group. For these patients, the mean age at diagnosis was 28 years.  There were no apparent differences in demographic variables between the groups; however, the early biologic therapy group had higher disease activity and lower quality of life scores at baseline. 20% were current smokers and 61% never smoked.  Disease location was similar in both groups; overall, 35% had ileal disease, 13% colonic disease, 34% ileocolonic, and 7% isolated upper tract disease.


  • Mean Harvey-Bradshaw index and Short Inflammatory Bowel Disease Questionnaire scores at 3, 6, and 12 months were not different between the groups.
  • Early biologic therapy group had more hospitalizations.
  • No difference in steroid use or surgeries was noted at one year.

Take-home message: This study suggests that differences in outcomes between “top-down” therapy and step-up therapy are more pronounced early in the treatment course but may wane after 1 to 2 years.  However, early biologic therapy “may be a more effective strategy in patients with Crohn’s disease with higher disease activity.”

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1 thought on “Rethinking top-down treatment?

  1. Pingback: Changes in the Use of IBD Biologic Therapy | gutsandgrowth

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