(RxWiki News) Traditional treatments for Crohn's disease are effective at reducing inflammation by affecting the immune system. The side effects can be difficult for many patients. A new study shows that a drug used to treat alcoholics may be effective without causing side effects.
Naltrexone (Vivitrol, ReVia and Depade) is approved by the FDA for treating alcohol dependence. A new Penn State College of Medicine study suggests an that an off label use for naltrexone could help bring Crohn's disease into remission. Fifty percent of patients taking naltrexone for a 24 week period saw their Crohn's disease go into remission.
"If you have Crohn's disease, ask your doctor if off label use of naltrexone is appropriate."
Jill P. Smith, M.D., professor of medicine at Penn State College of Medicine explains the reasoning in trying naltrexone to treat Crohn's disease. Researchers hypothesized that since endorphins and enkephalins (part of the opioid system) are involved in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), causing interference with an opioid receptor could lead to a reversal of Crohn's disease.
Forty patients were used in this study, half of whom received naltrexone for 12 weeks and the other half received a placebo.
There was no difference in their Crohn's disease at the four and eight week mark, but at 12 weeks, 70 percent experienced at least a 70-point decline in the Crohn's Disease Activity Index (CDAI) score and healing of the colon was observed via colonoscopy.
Participants who continued use of naltrexone for an additional 12 weeks (24 total weeks) had a further 75-point decline in CDAI scores, which led to remission in 50 percent of the participants.