Pediatric-onset Crohn disease is more aggressive than adult-onset disease, has high rates of resistance to existing drugs, and can lead to permanent impairments. Few trials have evaluated new drugs for refractory Crohn disease in children.
To determine whether thalidomide is effective in inducing remission in refractory pediatric Crohn disease.
Design, Setting, and Patients
Multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial of 56 children with active Crohn disease despite immunosuppressive treatment, conducted August 2008–September 2012 in 6 pediatric tertiary care centers in Italy.
Thalidomide, 1.5 to 2.5 mg/kg per day, or placebo once daily for 8 weeks. In an open-label extension, nonresponders to placebo received thalidomide for an additional 8 weeks. All responders continued to receive thalidomide for an additional minimum 52 weeks.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Primary outcomes were clinical remission at week 8, measured by Pediatric Crohn Disease Activity Index (PCDAI) score and reduction in PCDAI by ≥25% or ≥75% at weeks 4 and 8. Primary outcomes during the open-label follow-up were clinical remission and 75% response.
Twenty-eight children were randomized to thalidomide and 26 to placebo. Clinical remission was achieved by significantly more children treated with thalidomide (13/28 [46.4%] vs 3/26 [11.5%]; risk ratio [RR], 4.0 [95% CI, 1.2-12.5]; P = .01; number needed to treat [NNT], 2.86). Responses were not different at 4 weeks, but greater improvement was observed at 8 weeks in the thalidomide group (75% response, 13/28 [46.4%] vs 3/26 [11.5%]; RR, 4.0 [95% CI, 1.2-12.5]; NNT = 2.86; P = .01; and 25% response, 18/28 [64.2%] vs 8/26 [30.8%]; RR, 2.1 [95% CI, 1.1-3.9]; NNT = 2.99; P = .01). Of the nonresponders to placebo who began receiving thalidomide, 11 of 21 (52.4%) subsequently reached remission at week 8 (RR, 4.5 [95% CI, 1.4-14.1]; NNT = 2.45; P = .01). Overall, 31 of 49 children treated with thalidomide (63.3%) achieved clinical remission, and 32 of 49 (65.3%) achieved 75% response. Mean duration of clinical remission in the thalidomide group was 181.1 weeks (95% CI, 144.53-217.76) vs 6.3 weeks (95% CI, 3.51-9.15) in the placebo group (P < .001). Cumulative incidence of severe adverse events was 2.1 per 1000 patient-weeks, with peripheral neuropathy the most frequent severe adverse event.
Conclusions and Relevance
In children and adolescents with refractory Crohn disease, thalidomide compared with placebo resulted in improved clinical remission at 8 weeks of treatment and longer-term maintenance of remission in an open-label follow-up. These findings require replication to definitively determine clinical utility of this treatment.
clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00720538