The advent of the biological era has seen many improvements in the management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). These agents, however, are not a ubiquitous panacea as they are neither universally available nor are they universally efficacious in the short or long-term. There is, therefore, still a need for other therapies and it is important to remember about the medications that have been effective in the past. The use of azathioprine and 6-mercoptopurine has been the mainstay of long-term therapy for many IBD patients for many years. Their role as steroid sparing agents and in the maintenance of remission is well recognized, and with the advent of metabolite testing their use has been refined. Methotrexate is a second line immunomodulator with less impressive data but still with observed benefits in Crohns disease (CD) and two newer immunosuppressive agents, mycophenylate mofetil and tacrolimus have sparked some interest as they appear to be efficacious in some patients.
As IBD is a chronic incurable condition that primarily presents in young patients, the treating clinicians goal is to induce and maintain long-term remission. So when one agent is ineffective, or unavailable, other agents need to be considered. This review aims to provide clinicians with practical and up to date knowledge about the use of the immunomodulators in the management of IBD, which is vital in order to offer the best management for their patients.