De-escalation of biological therapy in inflammatory bowel disease: Benefits and risks

E Fredericks, G Watermeyer


The treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is often challenging. It has a vexing and waning course with frequent relapses, despite adequate maintenance therapy. Biological  agents have been available for the treatment of IBD for the last two decades, with impressive results. However, these drugs are costly and often have significant side-effects. Therefore, the benefit of aggressive treatment must be carefully balanced against the risk of serious adverse events. Despite good clinical outcomes, patients often request to discontinue the drugs because of cost and detrimental effects, especially the risk of malignancy. This review focuses on the benefits of biological treatment, strategies to de-escalate therapy, risk of relapse when these agents are discontinued and success with retreatment with the same or a similar biological agent.

Authors' affiliations

E Fredericks, Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

G Watermeyer, Gastrointestinal Clinic, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, South Africa

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IBD; Crohn's disease; Ulcerative colitis; Biological therapy; De-escalation

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(10):745-749. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2019.v109i10.14074

Article History

Date submitted: 2019-09-30
Date published: 2019-09-30

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