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Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Aminosalicylates for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
These medicines are used for some types of IBD. They may relieve symptoms and
inflammation in the intestines and help disease go into
remission (a period without symptoms). They also may
help prevent the disease from becoming active again.
been used to treat IBD for more than 30 years. They usually are the
first medicines used to treat
ulcerative colitis. But experts don't agree on the use of these medicines for Crohn's disease.
The use of these medicines depends
on the disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's), the type of medicine (oral or topical), and whether the disease is active or in remission.
Aminosalicylates work for
mild to moderate ulcerative colitis.
Treatment for mild to moderate ulcerative
colitis often begins with sulfasalazine. Sulfasalazine works
40% to 80% of the time to make ulcerative colitis symptoms better or keep them
from coming back.footnote 1 But it cannot be used by people who
are allergic to or cannot tolerate sulfa drugs.
Mesalamine, olsalazine, and balsalazide do not contain sulfa. So they may be used to treat mild to moderate ulcerative colitis if you cannot
Mesalamine enemas are effective in treating
symptoms of mild to moderate distal (left-sided) ulcerative colitis and in
maintaining remission.footnote 1 Mesalamine suppositories are preferred for people who
have proctitis. The combination of
a mesalamine pill (oral) and a mesalamine enema, foam, or suppository (topical)
works better to treat left-sided colitis than either oral or topical mesalamine
by itself.footnote 1
These medicines can be used to maintain remission in ulcerative colitis.
Experts don't agree on the use of aminosalicylates for Crohn's disease. It's not clear how well they work to treat the disease.footnote 2 Sometimes these medicines are used to treat active Crohn's disease (a flare-up) that affects the colon (colitis). Your doctor may also recommend aminosalicylates at other times.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of aminosalicylates include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects.
(Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
Sulfasalazine can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
Friedman S, Lichtenstein GR (2006). Ulcerative colitis. In MM Wolfe et al., eds., Therapy of Digestive Disorders, 2nd ed., pp. 803–817. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Ford AC, et al. (2011). Efficacy of 5-aminosalicylates in Crohn's disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
American Journal of Gastroenterology, 106(4): 617–629. DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2011.71. Accessed November 5, 2014.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Current as ofNovember 14, 2014
Current as of:
November 14, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more, visit Healthwise.org
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