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Drug Treatments

Some doctors use a 'bottom-up' approach to treating IBD. This means starting with the mildest drugs (with least side effects), and moving up to the stronger drugs if necessary. However, research is suggesting that it may be more effective to start with the strongest drugs, to halt the disease process in its tracks, and move to a milder drug to maintain remission (a 'top-down' approach). This may result in less risk of complications and surgeries.

Click here for a alphabetised list of drug names.



These drugs are similar in composition to aspirin. They are mild drugs, with relatively few side effects. They are not suitable for treating a flare, but may help to keep a patient in remission. Drugs in this class include different preparations of mesalazine and sulphalazine.


These drugs mimic the body's natural hormones, and have a very high remission rate. They also take effect quickly. However, they have many side effects, which worsen with long term use. Therefore, steroids may be used to achieve remission, or in the short term while another medication (such as an immune suppressant) takes effect. The two most common steroids used for IBD are the different forms of prednisone and Entocort.

Immune Suppressants

Like the name suggests, these drugs dampen down the body's immune response. As IBDs are autoimmune diseases, reducing the body's immune response may reduce inflammation. Azathioprine and 6-mp fall into this category.


This is the newest class of drugs used to treat IBDs. They are typically used for severe cases, those that do not respond to the other classes of drugs, or for treating fistulas. These drugs include Humira, Remicade and Cimzia.

Symptomatic Relief

In addition to the drugs listed above for treatment of the disease, there are various other drugs which provide symptomatic relief, and are typically taken on an as needed basis. This includes:

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