Thioguanine in inflammatory bowel disease: Long-term efficacy and safety

Mark G. Ward, Kamal V. Patel, Viraj C. Kariyawasam, Rishi Goel, Ben Warner, Tim R. Elliott, Paul A. Blaker, Peter M. Irving, Anthony M. Marinaki, Jeremy D. Sanderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Thioguanine (TG) is efficacious in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but its toxicity, particularly nodular regenerative hyperplasia (NRH) of the liver, has limited its use. We assessed the long-term clinical outcomes and safety of TG in patients whom were intolerant or refractory to conventional immunomodulators. Methods: This is a retrospective, single-centre study of IBD patients treated with TG from 2001–2013. Response was defined as clinical remission (Harvey–Bradshaw Index < 5 for Crohn’s disease (CD), Simple Clinical Colitis Activity Index < 4 for ulcerative colitis (UC)) without corticosteroids or, if receiving anti-tumour-necrosis-factor (anti-TNF) therapy, absence of dose escalation. We recorded TG failure, withdrawal and adverse events. Patients were monitored with biochemistry, liver biopsy and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Results: 54 patients (47 CD and 7 UC) whom received TG (mean dose: 27 mg/d (range: 20–40 mg/d)) as monotherapy (n = 36) or concomitantly with anti-TNF (n = 18) for a median inter-quartile range of 16 (5–37) months (126 patient-years of follow-up). 32 (59%) patients responded to TG at 6 months and 23 (43%) at 12 months. Pancreatitis did not recur amongst the 19 patients with prior thiopurine-induced pancreatitis. 16 (30%) patients ceased TG due to intolerance or toxicity (four serious); NRH was not observed. 6-thioguanine nucleotide concentrations did not correlate with efficacy nor with toxicity. Conclusions: TG was efficacious and well tolerated in one out of two patients who had previously failed conventional immunomodulators. NRH did not occur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-570
Number of pages8
JournalUnited European Gastroenterology Journal
Issue number4
Early online date1 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Crohn’s disease
  • thioguanine
  • thiopurine
  • toxicity
  • ulcerative colitis


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