Methotrexate (MTX) use as an alternative to thiopurines in the treatment of Crohn's disease (CD) in children is increasing. This study was undertaken to assess safety and efficacy of MTX in children with CD.
Patients treated with MTX with a minimum of 1-year follow-up were identified in the Pediatric IBD Collaborative Research Group Registry, a prospective inception cohort study started in 2002. The clinical efficacy and safety of MTX were analyzed retrospectively.
Two hundred ninety patients treated with MTX were identified. One hundred seventy-two patients received at least 3 months of MTX without thiopurine or biologicals and had ≥1 year of follow-up. Eighty-one of 172 patients (47%) received MTX as first immunomodulator (IMM), of which 22 (27%) achieved ≥12 months of sustained clinical remission without surgery, thiopurine, biologicals, or corticosteroids. Those receiving MTX as second IMM achieved similar remission rate (35%, P = not significant). Fourteen percent received MTX as first IMM in 2002 and 60% in 2010 (P = 0.005). Disease location did not affect outcomes. MTX doses were equivalent in both groups. Fifteen percent of patients developed an alanine aminotransferase >60 international units/liter and 12% developed a white blood cell <4000 cells per microliter while on MTX. Only 4% of these discontinued MTX completely. A small group of 6 centers, which contributed only about one-third of patients with CD in the registry, contributed nearly two-thirds of the patients receiving MTX (P < 0.001).
MTX use as first choice IMM is increasing in pediatric CD. MTX provided sustained clinical remission in nearly one-third of patients with minimal toxicity. There is large center-to-center variability in its use.