Aminosalicylates (5-ASAS)

Aminosalicylates are usually the first medicines prescribed to people newly diagnosed with IBD. They may be given as tablets, liquid, creams or suppositories to people with mild to moderate ulcerative colitis and mild Crohn’s disease. They may be taken orally or via your back passage. Aminosalicylates are usually more effective for people with ulcerative colitis than with Crohn’s disease, but the effectiveness varies greatly from person to person.

The medicine works to reduce inflammation in the gut, although the exact way it works is not fully understood. Aminosalicylates contain 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA).

Types of aminosalicylates - or 5-ASAs - include:

  • Mesalazine (brand names include Pentasa, Asacol, Octasa, Ipocol, Mezavant, Salofalk, Canasa, Rowasa)
  • Sulfasalazine (brand names include Azulfadine)
  • Olsalazine (brand names include Dipentum)
  • Balsalazide (Colazal, Giazo)

There may also be some other brands available not mentioned above.

As with all medications some people may experience side effects. Common side effects include headache, nausea, abdominal pain and cramping, loss of appetite, vomiting, rash, or fever. 5-ASA agents can also cause diarrhoea in a small number of users, though it can be difficult to distinguish if the diarrhoea is as a result of the medication or from your IBD.

Rarely aminosalicylates can cause problems with your blood and you should tell your doctor immediately if you have any unexplained bleeding, bruising, red or purple discolourations of the skin, sore throat, high temperature (fever) or if you feel generally unwell during treatment. You should discuss potential side effects with your doctor before taking the medication and read the patient information leaflet which comes with the medication.

They should not be used by people with known kidney problems.

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