Although oral glucocorticoids are the treatment of choice for moderate to severe ulcerative pancolitis, their systemic side effects and adrenal suppression account for considerable morbidity. An oral glucocorticoid-conjugate (prodrug), budesonide-beta-D-glucuronide, which is not absorbed in the small intestine but is hydrolysed by colonic bacterial and mucosal beta-glucuronidase to release free budesonide into the colon was synthesised. The objective of this study was to compare treatment with budesonide-beta-D-glucuronide with treatment with free budesonide by examining: (1) the healing of experimental colitis and (2) the extent of adrenal suppression. Pancolitis was induced with 4% acetic acid. Animals were then randomised to receive oral therapy for 72 hours with (1) budesonide-beta-D-glucuronide, (2) free budesonide, or (3) vehicle. Drug efficacy and colitic healing was determined by measuring gross colonic ulceration, myeloperoxidase activity, and in vivo colonic fluid absorption. Adrenal suppression was determined by measuring plasma adrenocorticotrophic hormone and serum corticosterone. Vehicle-treated colitis animals had gross ulceration, increased myeloperoxidase activity, and net colonic fluid secretion. Treatment with oral budesonide-beta-D-glucuronide accelerated all measures of colitis healing at a fourfold lower dose than did free budesonide. Furthermore, treatment with budesonide-beta-D-glucuronide did not result in adrenal suppression whereas free budesonide treatment did. A newly synthesised orally administered glucocorticoid-conjugate accelerates colitis healing with limited adrenal suppression. Development of an orally administered colon-specific steroid delivery system represents a novel approach to inflammatory bowel disease treatment.
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