Picking Apart the SERENE-CD Study & Constipation Vibrating Capsule FDA Approved

Several recent letters to the editor provide some insight into some of the shortcomings of the SERENE-CD study which reported that higher adalimumab induction dosing and proactive therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) were not associated with improved outcomes.

“The rerandomization design of SERENE CD, which selectively enrolled patients with clinical response at week 12 to the TDM vs CA part of the study, may have resulted in the exclusion of those who would have benefited the most from early adjustment of their anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) dose. The rerandomization design and the late adaptation of the proactive strategy at week 12 were 2 significant aspects of the design that may have led to the negative results. On the other hand, PAILOT, which showed beneficial effects of proactive TDM, randomized patients as early as week 4 and assessed the outcome at week 72. This is distinct from the 1-year time frame used in most other studies, including SERENE CD.8 A properly designed, adequately powered clinical trial is needed before we can make a judgement on the use of proactive TDM in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Until then, the jury remains out.”

“The study design only allowed patients in the TDM group with adalimumab concentrations of ≥5 and ≤10 μg/mL to be escalated to 40 mg every week if their CD activity index was ≥220 or their high-sensitivity C-reactive protein level was ≥10 mg/L.. The goal of proactive TDM is to attain a threshold concentration regardless of disease activity. This design probably led the 2 groups to have similar drug concentrations at week 56…

Second, a rather low targeted drug concentration of 5 μg/mL was used, although previous studies have suggested that higher concentrations are more appropriate.5678 A study from Ungar et al5 showed that adalimumab concentrations of 8–12 μg/mL are required to achieve mucosal healing in 80%–90% of patients with IBD, and the prospective PANTS (The Personalised Anti-TNF Therapy in Crohn’s Disease Study) study identified an adalimumab concentration of 12 μg/mL at week 14 associated with remission at both week 14 and week 54.8..

Third, dose escalation for the TDM group could only happen at weeks 14, 28, or 42 (and not earlier and more often). In the PAILOT RCT, proactive TDM based on adalimumab concentration evaluations started as early as week 4 followed by week 8 and every 8 weeks thereafter until the end of the follow-up at week 72.3 Fourth, there was a rather short follow-up of the patients (44 weeks).”

” Even with the assumption of a 30% benefit of proactive TDM and that 20% of patients would have low drug levels in the absence of symptoms, the sample size for 80% power would range from 1228 to 2170. Thus, although SERENE CD1 and other clinical trials3,4 have suggested a lack of benefit of proactive TDM in adults with inflammatory bowel disease, all were likely substantially underpowered to do so.”

My take: While the SERENE-CD results have suggested that a strategy of proactive TDM may not be helpful, there are a lot of reasons to disregard these findings. Achieving a therapeutic level is a fundamental principle and proactive TDM, particularly in pediatrics, is well-supported by other studies.

Related blog posts:

Also noted:

Kids Are Different: Therapeutic Drug Monitoring

NH Nguyen et al. Gastroenterol 2022; 163: 937-949. Open Access! Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Versus Conventional Management for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Key finding:

  • On meta-analysis of 9 RCTs (8 RCTs in adults, and focusing on maintenance phase), there was no significant difference in the risk of failing to maintain clinical remission in patients who underwent proactive TDM (267/709; 38%) vs conventional management (292/696; 42%) (relative risk [RR], 0.96)

The discussion in this paper makes some important points, as there are some populations in which proactive TDM is more likely to be beneficial.


“The impact of proactive TDM in pediatric patients also merits further consideration. This concept may be particularly important in pediatrics due to the variability in size of patients, which may not be adequately addressed by weight-based dosing.33 This is especially important in younger children, where it has been shown that standard TNFα antagonist regimens and trough levels may not be applicable in this age group, and may require more frequent escalation of therapy.34,35 In the PAILOT trial, proactive TDM in children with clinical response to adalimumab was associated with higher rates of maintaining sustained corticosteroid-free clinical remission at all visits from week 8–72, compared with reactive TDM in which physicians were informed of trough concentration only after loss of response.”

Induction Dosing (Adults and Children):

“It is possible that the early measurement of biologic drug concentrations, to identify patients who may have accelerated clearance, and optimization of a subset of these patients early in the course of therapy may offer benefit.1,30 …Ongoing trials such as OPTIMIZE (NCT04835506) and TITRATE (NCT03937609) in which infliximab is optimized during the induction phase through a pharmacokinetic dashboard in patients with Crohn’s disease and acute severe ulcerative colitis will shed further light on this.”

My take: So far, studies in adults have not shown that proactive therapeutic drug monitoring has been effective in improving clinical outcomes. This may change particularly if studies focus on patients on monotherapy who are at increased risk of subtherapeutic levels. No matter what happens in adults, there is sufficient data showing that proactive therapeutic drug monitoring is essential in children. This is especially important as ‘routine” dosing of infliximab in children may be subtherapeutic in nearly 80%.

Related blog posts:

Improving Outcomes with Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring + Swiss COVID-19 Data

Another recent study showing the benefits of proactive therapeutic drug monitoring (pTDM):

SW Syverson et al. JAMA. 2021;326(23):2375-2384. Effect of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring vs Standard Therapy During Maintenance Infliximab Therapy on Disease Control in Patients With Immune-Mediated Inflammatory Diseases (The article is only 10 pages; however, the supplementary material (which I did not read) is an additional 258 pages.) Thanks to Ben Gold for sharing article reference. Also, this study was reviewed in Healio Gastro: Link: Therapeutic drug monitoring sustains disease control during infliximab maintenance

Methods: Randomized, parallel-group, open-label clinical trial including 458 adults (mean age, 44.8 years; 49.8% women) with rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ulcerative colitis (n=81), Crohn disease (n=66), or psoriasis undergoing maintenance therapy with infliximab in 20 Norwegian hospital

Key finding:

  • Sustained disease control without worsening was evident in 73.9% of pTDM group compared with 55.9% in standard infliximab group

Some limitations of this study:

  1. The open-label study was not powered to detect the difference of pTDM in each of the six diseases
  2. The therapeutic goal for maintenance infliximab was 3 to 8 mg/L, which is a little lower than current goals (ACG expert panel suggests a level of at least 5-10)

My take: This study supports recent expert guidance (see blog post below) on the benefit of pTDM as part of evidence-based care. It is likely that pTDM is even more important in children/teens due to growth.

Time to Disease Worsening

Related blog posts:

Also data from Switzerland:

Real-World Experience with Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

A recent large retrospective pediatric study provides further evidence that therapeutic drug monitoring (TDM) in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) results in better clinical outcomes. One of my partners, Chelly Dykes, is a coauthor and leads our ImproveCareNow team.

JL Lyles et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2021; 27: 482-492. Effect of a Practice-wide Anti-TNF Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Program on Outcomes in Pediatric Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

This single center implemented a practice wide TDM approach in 2014. This study compared a historical pre-TDM group (n=108) to the TDM group (n=206). The primary outcome was sustained clinical remission (SCR22-52), defined as physician global assessment (PGA) of inactive from 22 to 52 weeks and off corticosteroids at 52 weeks. Key findings:

  • The SCR22-52 was achieved in 42% of pre-TDM and 59% of TDM patients (risk difference, 17.6%; 95% CI, 5.4–29%; P = 0.004)
  • The TDM group had an increased adjusted odds of achieving SCR22-52 (odds ratio, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.27–3.26; P = 0.003)
  • The adjusted risk of developing high titer antidrug antibodies (ADAs) was lower in the post-TDM group (hazard ratio, 0.18; 95% CI, 0.09–0.35; P < 0.001)
  • The SCBR22-52 (which was defined by normal CRP along with SCR22-52) was 24.7% in pre-TDM and 42.7% in the TDM group
  • The authors did not identify a significantly higher rate of anti-TNF cessation in either group
  • Only 12% of patients in their practice were receiving combination therapy

In the discussion, the authors review three pivotal studies which also support proactive TDM: TAXIT, TAILORIX, and PAILOT.

My take: While this was an observational study with historical controls, the findings are convincing that proactive TDM is helpful, particularly in patients who are not receiving combination therapy.

Related blog posts:

March 31, 2021

Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring in Pediatric Crohn’s disease -Better Outcomes

Y Gofin et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2020; 26: 1276-82.  Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Increases Drug Retention of Anti–Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Agents in Pediatric Patients With Crohn’s Disease

Retrospective study with 197 pediatric participants (2007-2018)

Key findings:

  • Compared with the TDM- group (n=98), the TDM+ group (n=99)
    • longer drug retention time (mean ± SE, 45.0 ± 2.7 vs 33.5 ± 2.4 months; P = 0.001)
    • lower hospitalization rate per patient per year (mean ± SE, 0.51 ± 0.7 vs 0.92 ± 0.81; P < 0.001)
    • higher treatment intensification rate (70% vs 18%; P < 0.001).
  • Analysis of the entire cohort showed a longer retention time for adalimumab vs infliximab (45.3 ± 2.8 vs 34.8 ± 2.5 months; P = 0.007)

My take: This is another study showing utility of proactive therapeutic drug monitoring

Related blog posts:

Expert Guidance on Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Part 2)

A recent issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology focused solely on the clinical features and management of inflammatory bowel disease. Even for those with expertise in IBD, there is a lot of useful information and concise reviews of what is known.

Here are some of my notes from this issue (part 2)

S Danese et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1280-90. Positioning Therapies in Ulcerative Colitis

This is a good article but recent AGA publications are probably better –there are some links below. One statement that was interesting: “the safety profile of vedolizumab seems even better than placebo in terms of risk of serious” adverse events. The authors favored infliximab in combination with azathioprine in those needing biologic therapy with moderate-severe UC.

Related blog posts:

S Vermeire et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1291-9. How, When, and for Whom Should We Perform Therapeutic Drug Monitoring?

“Although reactive TDM, testing at time of loss of response, is widely accepted in practice, especially for anti–tumor necrosis factor antibodies, there are less data for the other monoclonal antibodies belonging to other classes. Besides reactive testing, there is a movement toward proactively adjusting biologic dosing to prevent loss of response, in keeping with the tight control philosophy of inflammatory bowel disease care.” The authors favor proactive monitoring: “we are now beginning to see with well-powered proactive TDM studies” that proactive monitoring can maximize the benefits of TDM with “the potential to maximize durability of biologics and improve the outcomes of IBD patients.”

Related blog posts:

PS Dulai et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1300-8. How Do We Treat Inflammatory Bowel Diseases to Aim For Endoscopic Remission?

The initial part of this article reviews treatment targets -resolution of symptoms and resolution of endoscopic damage. The algorithm provides the authors’ suggested approach:

  • At initiation of therapy, patients should have a full assessment.  In addition to ileocolonoscopy, for patients with CD, the authors recommend cross-sectional imaging.
  • After treatment initiation, the authors recommend biomarker assessment every 3 months.  Mucosal assessment can occur 6-9 months after treatment initiation.
  • For UC, the authors note that fecal calprotectin (FC) “appears to be more stratightforward, and a cutoff of 250 mcg/g can be used reliably across all scenarios to make treatment adjustments.”  Though, they recommend endoscopic confirmation prior to transition to a biologic or small molecule therapy.
  • For CD, the authors suggest making treatment adjustments in those with FC >250 mcg/g and in those with lower values, followup colonoscopy is recommended.
  • The authors note that in the post-operative setting with CD, mucosal inflammation precedes symptomatic activity and “waiting for symptoms to emerge may unnecessary allow for disease progression.”
  • The authors suggest that tighter disease control will reduce disease-related complications, while acknowledging a lack of prospective clinical trials.
  • One thorny issue: :”For CD: it remains unclear what degree of residual mucosal healing is acceptable to impact important outcomes such as CD-related complications, hospitalizations, and surgeries.”

Related blog posts:

M Allocca et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1309-23. Use of Cross-Sectional Imaging for Tight Monitoring of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

“Computed tomography is limited by the use of radiation, while the use of magnetic resonance enterography (MRE) is limited by its cost and access. There is growing interest in bowel ultrasound that represents a cost-effective, noninvasive, and well-tolerated modality in clinical practice, but it is operator dependent… Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is a MR imaging technique that increasingly is used in both IBD and non-IBD conditions and has been shown to be a valuable and accurate tool for assessing and monitoring IBD activity.

L Beaugerie et al. Clinical Gastroenterol Hepatol: 2020; 18: 1324-35. Predicting, Preventing, and Managing Treatment-Related Complications in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

The first part of this article reviews potential adverse effects from the medications used for IBD treatment, noting in Table 1 that there are not complications to monitor for with both vedolizumab and ustekinumab.

The article reviews infections, vaccination strategies and issues related to malignancy Some of the recommendations:

  • vaccine against pneumococcus should be given before patients begin immunosuppressive therapy
  • physicians should consider giving patients live vaccines against herpes zoster (in adults) before they begin immunosuppressive therapy or a recombinant vaccine, when available, at any time point during treatment
  • sun protection and skin surveillance from the time of diagnosis are recommended
  • despite concerns about therapy, the authors note that “the extensive use of immunosuppressive therapy leads to a substantial decrease in the incidence of IBD complications, with a globally favorable benefit-risk ratio, which can be optimized further thanks to a good degree of awareness and knowledge of drug complications.”

It is interesting that this article (and the entire issue) does not address mental health concerns related to the diagnosis of IBD.  This likely creates more morbidity and complications than most of the other issues that are discussed.

Above: Why did the picture go to jail? Because it was framed.

Disclaimer: This blog, gutsandgrowth, assumes no responsibility for any use or operation of any method, product, instruction, concept or idea contained in the material herein or for any injury or damage to persons or property (whether products liability, negligence or otherwise) resulting from such use or operation. These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  Because of rapid advances in the medical sciences, the gutsandgrowth blog cautions that independent verification should be made of diagnosis and drug dosages. The reader is solely responsible for the conduct of any suggested test or procedure.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

IBD Shorts February 2020

Cost of IBD Care is Increasing. From Healio Gastro: Chronic inflammatory disease expenditures nearly double over last 2 decades Reference: Click B, et al. Poster 22. Presented at: Crohn’s and Colitis Congress; Jan. 23-25, 2020; Austin, Texas

An excerpt from Healio Gastro summary: [Using] the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a nationally representative database of health care use and expenditure data collected since 1998The researchers assessed total annual, outpatient, inpatient, emergency and pharmacy expenditures in both patients with IBD (n = 641) and RA (n = 641). They used three separate time periods – 1998-2001, 2006-2009 and 2012-2015 –to compare expenditures over time…

Median per-patient annual health care expenditure in patients with IBD was $6,570 compared with $4,010 in patients with RA across all years of the study. Total annual spending increased approximately 2.2 times (95% CI, 1.6-3; P < .01) over the study period and was 36% higher in IBD than RA (P = 0.01).

Pharmaceutical spending increased more than fourfold (95% CI, 3.2-6.1; P < .01) and became the largest cost category (44% total). However, inpatient expenses in IBD decreased 40% over the study period.

My take: While the cost has increased, these new treatments are improving outcomes.  With the emergence of biosimilars, there may be improvement in pharmaceutical spending.

More on Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring (pTDM) Being Helpful: SR Fernandes et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2020; 26: 263-70, editorial 271-2.  In this study, a prospective group of patients (n=56) undergoing pTDM were compared with a historical control group (n=149). pTDM had less frequent surgery (9% vs. 21%) and higher rates of mucosal healing (73% vs. 39%).  Treatment escalation was 3 times more common with pTDM than in the control group.

Increased risk of VTE in IBD patientsJD McCurdy et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2020; https://doi.org/10.1093/ibd/izaa002

Abstract Link: Risk of Venous Thromboembolism After Hospital Discharge in Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Population-based Study

In a population-based study from Ontario, the authors analyzed a total of 81,900 IBD discharges (62,848 nonsurgical and 19,052 surgical) which were matched to non-IBD controls… The cumulative incidence of VTE at 12 months after discharge was 2.3% for nonsurgical IBD patients and 1.6% for surgical IBD patients…Nonsurgical IBD patients and surgical patients with ulcerative colitis are 1.7-fold more likely to develop postdischarge VTE than non-IBD patients.

Here’s The Proof That Proactive Drug Monitoring Improves Outcomes in Children With Crohn’s Disease

A nonblinded randomized controlled trial (A Assa et al. Gastroenterology 2019; 157: 985-06) with 78 children who had Crohn’s disease provides some of the best evidence to date that proactive therapeutic drug monitoring (pTDM) is important for anti-TNF therapy. The trial was called the PAILOT =Paediatric Crohn’s disease Adalimumab-Level-based Optimisation Treatment.  This is the first RCT of pTDM that actually achieved its primary end point.

In this study, children were divided into a pTDM group (n=38) who received adalimumab levels at weeks 4 and 8 along with every 8 weeks unitl week 72.  The control group (n=31) had reactive monitoring.  The investigators aimed for a trough concentrations above 5 mcg/mL.

Key findings:

  • The primary endpoint of sustained corticosteroid-free clinical remission (CFCR) was achieved in 82% of the pTDM group compared to 48% in the reactive monitoring group (p-.002).
  • The pTMD also  had a higher rate of the composite outcome (CFCR, CRP ≤0.5 mg/dL, and calprotectin ≤150): 42% compared to 12% in the control group (p=.003)
  • 87% of pTDM had dose intensification compared to 60% in control group.

The editorial by Papamichael and Cheifetz (pg 922-4) highlights some additional observations:

  • “The study actually showed that a 10.0 mcg/mL threshold performed better than 7.5 and 5.0 mcg/mL” with respect to PCDAI and CRP levels.
  • “The recent prospective Personalized anti-TNF therapy in Crohn’s disease study (PANTS) showed that the optimal week 14 adalimumab concentration …at both week 14 and 54 was 12 mcg/mL”

My take: Most pediatric gastroenterologist understand the importance of pTDM, especially as conventional dosing of anti-TNF agents is often too low.  This study provides some needed proof and hopefully will aid our efforts to get adequate insurance coverage.  The optimal frequency and timing of pTDM still needs work.

Related blog posts:

I really enjoyed my recent trip to Chicago. Here’s a picture from Lincoln Park Zoo from my favorite photographer

CCFA: Updates in IBD Conference (part 1)

My notes from a recent Georgia Chapter of CCFA’s conference. There could be errors of omission, transcription and/or errors in context based on my understanding.

Adam Cheifetz, MD Harvard School of Medicine

Optimizing IBD Treatments

  • Earlier treatment with effective therapies
  • Utilizing therapeutic drug monitoring

Goals are clinical and endoscopic remission

  • Imaging if not visible on endoscopy
  • Biomarker remission -adjunctive goal
  • Symptoms and endoscopy do not have good correlation in Crohn’s disease
  • Endoscopic healing associated with better outcomes
  • Treatment –>assessment –> adjust treatment if goal is not met

Biologic Agents:

  • First agent works best; TNF-exposed patients do not respond as well as TNF-naive patients to subsequent biologic
  • High rate of secondary loss of response

Therapeutic Drug Monitoring:

  • Combination therapy in Sonic study was associated with higher infliximab levels. It appears that optimized monotherapy is as effective as combination therapy (Colombel study).
  • Fistula treatment requires higher biologic levels
  • Lower biologic drug levels associated with development of antidrug antibodies
  • Proactive monitoring –recommended
  • Both infliximab and adalimumab are frequently underdosed, especially in pediatrics –>another reason for proactive monitoring
  • If sicker patients, consider checking TDM at week 10; less sick patients, reasonable to consider TDM at week 14

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Proactive Therapeutic Drug Monitoring -Different Time Points

Yesterday’s post outlined expert recommendations for proactive therapeutic drug monitoring (pTDM).  Today’s post reviews a study (NV Casteele et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2019; 17: 1814-21) which identifies optimal levels at earlier time points. The authors note that “higher infliximab (IFX) concentrations during induction therapy  are correlated with long-term relapse-free and colectomy-free survival.”

The authors analyzed data from 484 patients with active ulcerative colitis (UC) from two double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group studies: ACT-1 and ACT-2.

Key findings:

  • IFX levels ≥18.6 mcg/mL at week 2, ≥10.6 mcg/mL at week 6, and ≥34.9 mcg/mL at week 8 were associated with Mayo endoscopic scores (MES) of ≤1 at week 8.
  • IFX level of ≥5.1 mcg/mL at week 14 was associated with MES of ≤1 at week 30
  • IFX level of ≥6.7 mcg/mL at week 14 was associated with MES of 0 at week 30

My take: In pediatric patients receiving monotherapy with an anti-TNF agent, checking earlier levels (week 6, week 8, or week 10) may help avoid low troughs which are associated with a higher likelihood of treatment failure.  This study provides guidance on target levels at earlier time points.

Related blog posts:

Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications/diets (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician/nutritionist.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

Crater Lake, OR. The blue color is amazing !