BACKGROUND AND AIM: Nearly 25% of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) requiring steroids therapy become steroid-dependent after 1 yr, and virtually all develop steroid-related adverse events. We planned a controlled study to investigate the efficacy and safety of dexamethasone 21-P (Dex 21-P) encapsulated into erythrocytes (DEE). MATERIALS AND METHODS: Forty patients with mild-to-moderate UC, refractory to mesalamine, were randomly assigned to one of the following three treatments: two DEE infusions 14 days apart (group A, N = 20), oral prednisolone (0.5 mg/kg for 14 days followed by a 6 mg/weekly tapering (group B, N = 10), and sham infusions (group C, N = 10). The clinical, biochemical, and endoscopic parameters were monitored at inclusion and after 8 wk. RESULTS: In group A, a mean dose of 9.9 ± 4.1 mg Dex 21-P was loaded into autologous erythrocytes at each infusion. At 8 wk, 15 patients in group A (75%), 8 in group B (80%), and 1 in group C (10%, P <0.001 vs A and B) were in clinical and endoscopic remission. When compared with the baseline values, C-reactive protein (CRP) dropped in groups A (1.6 mg/dL vs 0.4 mg/dL, P = 0.006) and B (1.0 vs 0.5, P = 0.02), but not in group C. No steroid-related adverse events were apparent in the patient treated with DEE, compared with 8 out of 10 patients on oral steroids (P ≤ 0.01). CONCLUSION: Low doses of Dex (mean total dose ± 20 mg) loaded into autologous erythrocytes were significantly more effective than sham infusions in terms of symptoms relief, endoscopic, and biochemical improvements in UC patients refractory to mesalamine. In addition, in contrast to oral prednisolone (mean total dose ± 1 g), no steroid-related adverse events were induced.
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