IBD includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, both frequently disabling diseases.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Stephen B. Hanauer, at the University of Chicago, and Paul Rutgeerts at University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Belgium.
As part of the study, researchers examined the literature on monoclonal antibodies or antibody fragments currently approved by the FDA or likely to be approved in the near future to study the side effects of biologic agents.
Researchers found that that for patients in whom traditional therapies do not work, through traditional 'step up' or sequential treatment approach biologics might be appropriate as a first line treatment. However, IBD is a heterogeneous disease and some patients may not respond to biologics, so the appropriate role of these agents in the treatment paradigm is the subject of much discussion.
The study noted that in determining the appropriate course of treatment, gastroenterologists needed to balance the potential complications of drug treatment (including increased risk for infections and cancer) against the consequences of potential under-treatment of their patients' disease (including poor quality-of-life, complications of disease, and the costs associated with active disease and the treatment of complications).
"Biologic therapies provide new options and hope for many patients, however they may be accompanied by serious side effects, both when used alone or in combination with other treatments. Gastroenterologists need to review and consider the side effects and significant costs when determining the best treatment course for their patients," Hanauer said.
The findings of the study were published in the July issue of Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) Institute.