A new drug could eventually be used as a treatment for a chronic colon disease.
Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Tofacitinib – which is currently being reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration as a potential medicine for rheumatoid arthritis – has seen positive results in people with moderate or severe ulcerative colitis.
This condition causes people to experience diarrhoea and rectal bleeding, as well as an urgent need to use the toilet.
Tofacitinib was found to cause remission and clinical responses during a phase two clinical trial of the medicine, scientists at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine found.
Researchers investigated 194 sufferers in a randomised trial of the drug, in which all of the participants were at least 18 years old and had previously gone through conventional therapies for the disease.
Patients were given a Tofacitinib dose two times every day for eight weeks and benefits began being seen after 14 days.
Some people involved in the study caught nasopharyngitis or influenza, while some reported suffering from headaches or worse cases of ulcerative colitis and two people developed an abscess.
Presently, there is only a limited range of treatment options for ulcerative colitis, with some of the drugs available requiring administration intravenously and none of the drugs considered universally effective.
In the US alone, between 600,000 and 700,000 people are believed to suffer from the illness, with some of these individuals eventually using international health insurance policies to pay for surgery in which their colon is removed.
"Patients with a more advanced case of ulcerative colitis need a potent and highly effective therapy," Dr William Sandborn, USCD Health System Inflammatory Bowel Disease Centre director and UCSD School of Medicine Division of Gastroenterology chief said.
"The results of our study show Tofacitinib may provide a new approach to attacking this disease," he added, stating: "The next phase of studies aim to confirm the efficacy and safety profile of the drug, will examine the long term or maintenance effect of Tofacitinib."