Background: Anti-tumour necrosis factor [anti-TNF] treatment was demonstrated to have disease-modifying abilities in inflammatory bowel disease [IBD]. In this study, we aimed to determine the effect of anti-TNF treatment timing on IBD disease complications and mucosal healing [MH]. Methods: The following IBD-related complications were tested in relation to timing of anti-TNF therapy start in newly diagnosed IBD patients [n = 413]: Fistula formation, abscess formation, extra-intestinal manifestations [EIM], surgery, referral to academic centre, and MH. Results: A total of 85 patients [21%] received anti-TNF (66 Crohn's disease [CD], 16 ulcerative colitis [UC], 3 inflammatory bowel disease unclassified [IBDU]) of whom 57% [48 patients] were treated < 16 months after diagnosis. Patients receiving anti-TNF early [< 16 months] did not differ from patients receiving anti-TNF late [> 16 months] regarding gender, age, smoking status, and familial IBD. More importantly, patients receiving anti-TNF early did not suffer less IBD-related complications during follow-up as compared with patients started on anti-TNF late, nor was more MH observed. Similar results were obtained when anti-TNF treated patient were stratified more stringently, ie < 12 months [40 patients] vs >2 4 months [24 patients]. Cox regression analysis showed no beneficial correlations between anti-TNF timing and IBD-related complications. Anti-TNF treated patients achieving MH were 11 times less likely to develop EIMs compared with patients who did not achieved MH while on anti-TNF. Conclusions: This study was unable to confirm a benefit of earlier anti-TNF treatment on IBD disease complications. This could be explained by more aggressive treatment earlier in disease, resulting in fewer IBD complications. However, it seems more likely that inappropriate selection of patients for therapy leads to suboptimal treatment and subsequently suboptimal outcome.

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Journal of Crohn's and Colitis
Department of Gastroenterology & Hepatology

Nuij, V., Fuhler, G., Edel, A. J., Ouwendijk, R., Rijk, M. C. M., Beukers, R., … Joachems-Raaijmaekers, K. (2015). Benefit of earlier anti-TNF treatment on IBD disease complications?. Journal of Crohn's and Colitis, 9(11), 997–1003. doi:10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjv130