Aminosalicylates contain the compound 5-aminosalicylic acid, or 5-ASA, which helps reduce inflammation. These drugs are used to prevent relapses and maintain remission in mild-to-moderate Crohn’s disease.
The standard aminosalicylate drug is sulfazine (Azulfidine). This drug combines the 5-ASA drug mesalamine with sulfapyridine, a sulfa antibiotic. While sulfazine is cheap and effective, the sulfa component of the drug can cause unpleasant side effects, including headache, nausea, and rash.
Patients who cannot tolerate sulfazine, or who are allergic to sulfa drugs, have other options for aminosalicylate drugs, including mesalamine (Asacol, Pentasa), olsalazine (Dipentum), and balsalazide (Colazal). These drugs, like sulfazine, are available as pills. Mesalamine is also available in enema (Rowasa) and suppository (Canasa) forms.
Mesalamine can cause kidney problems and should be used with caution by patients with kidney disease. Common side effects of aminosalicylate drugs include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps (mesalamine, balsalazide)
- Diarrhea (mesalamine, olsalazine)
- Gas (mesalamine)
- Nausea (mesalamine)
- Hair loss (mesalamine)
- Headache (mesalamine, balsalazide)
- Dizziness (mesalamine)
All mesalamine preparations, including sulfasalazine, appear to be safe for children, and for women who are pregnant or nursing.
Review Date: 09/28/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.