Fluticasone propionate is a corticosteroid with the potential for topical treatment of ulcerative colitis because of low systemic bioavailability. The drug was compared with prednisolone in the management of active left sided or total ulcerative colitis. Two hundred and five patients were studied in the multicentre four week double blind study. Prednisolone was given in a dose of 40 mg daily orally, reducing over four weeks to 10 or 20 mg. Fluticasone propionate was given in an oral daily dose of 20 mg. The primary end point was the investigator's overall assessment of response. Patient's assessment, sigmoidoscopic appearance, and histology were also studied. Patients improved more rapidly with prednisolone. Differences between the two groups were significant at two weeks. At four weeks differences were not significant, but there was a trend in favour of prednisolone. Corticosteroid side effects were minimal in the fluticasone propionate group, and there was minimal suppression of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. Fluticasone propionate 20 mg daily is not as effective in the treatment of active ulcerative colitis as prednisolone tapering from 40 mg daily to 10 or 20 mg. The complete absence of suppression of the corticoadrenal axis by fluticasone propionate was encouraging, however, and a higher dosage schedule should be assessed.
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