Background: The therapeutic role of methotrexate (MTX) for management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) remains unclear.
Methods: We systematically reviewed randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) of MTX for induction and maintenance of remission in IBD until January 2020 in accordance with PROSPERO protocol (#CRD42018115047). Relative risk (RR) of maintenance of remission, induction of remission, endoscopic disease activity, and adverse events were combined in a meta-analysis.
Findings: MTX monotherapy was not superior to placebo for induction of clinical remission in Crohn's disease (CD). However, MTX was superior to placebo in maintaining clinical remission of CD. Concomitant therapy with MTX and the TNF inhibitor infliximab (IFX) was not superior to IFX monotherapy in CD. In ulcerative colitis (UC), MTX monotherapy was not superior to placebo neither for induction of clinical remission, nor for maintenance of clinical remission. MTX did not result in superior endoscopic outcomes during induction or maintenance therapy compared with placebo. Regarding adverse events (AEs), our meta-analysis on CD studies showed a significantly higher risk of AEs when comparing MTX versus placebo in studies investigating induction of remission, but not in maintenance of remission. In UC, no such differences in AEs between MTX or placebo were observed.
Interpretation: Current data support the efficacy of parenteral MTX monotherapy for maintenance of clinical remission in CD. MTX is not confirmed to be effective for treatment of UC or for induction of remission in CD. No evidence supports concomitant MTX to improve efficacy of IFX (no other biologics investigated).