Thalidomide for inflammatory bowel disease: Systematic review

Matteo Bramuzzo, Alessandro Ventura, Stefano Martelossi, Marzia Lazzerini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Thalidomide is an immunomodulatory drug used in the experimental treatment of refractory Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis. We aimed to review the existing evidence on the efficacy and safety of thalidomide in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases. Methods: CENTRAL, MEDLINE, LILACS, POPLINE, CINHAL, and Web of Science were searched in March 2016. Manual search included conference and reference lists. All types of studies, except single case reports, were included. Outcomes evaluated were: induction of remission; maintenance of remission; steroid reduction; effect on penetrating Crohn disease; endoscopic remission; adverse events. Results: The research strategies retrieved 722 papers. Two randomized controlled trials and 29 uncontrolled studies for a total of 489 patients matched the inclusion criteria. Thalidomide induced a clinical response in 296/427 (69.3%) patients. Clinical remission was achieved in 220/427 (51.5%) cases. Maintenance of remission was reported in 128/160 (80.0%) patients at 6 months and in 96/133 (72.2%) at 12 months. Reduction in steroid dosage was reported in 109/152 (71.7%) patients. Fistulas improved in 49/81 (60.5%) cases and closed in 28/81 (34.6%). Endoscopic improvement was observed in 46/66 (69.7%) and complete mucosal healing in 35/66 (53.0%) patients. Cumulative incidence of total adverse events and of those leading to drug suspension was 75.6 and 19.7/1000 patient-months, respectively. Neurological disturbances accounted for 341/530 (64.3%) adverse events and were the most frequent cause of drug withdrawal. Conclusion: Existing evidence suggests that thalidomide may be a valid treatment option for patients with inflammatory bowel diseases refractory to other first- and second-line treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number421
JournalMedicine (United States)
Issue number30
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016


  • Crohn disease
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • systematic review
  • thalidomide
  • ulcerative colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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