• Reference Number: HEY-165/2015
  • Departments: Gastroenterology


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your medication.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor but may act as a starting point for discussion.   If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team caring for you.

What are 5-ASAs?

They are a group of drugs that work by minimising the degree of inflammation in the intestine and helping in the healing of the damaged lining. They can be effective in achieving remission (a period of time without symptoms) and also maintaining remission by reducing the number of flare ups of your disease. These drugs have a major role in maintaining remission of ulcerative colitis. It may also be beneficial in a select group of patients with Crohn’s disease.

How do I take 5-ASAs?

These drugs can be given by mouth (tablets or granules in sachets). They also can be taken as enema or suppository. The method used will be decided in relation to where in the bowel your disease is.

How long do they take to work?

These drugs do not work straightaway and may take up to 8 weeks before you notice significant benefit. In order to remain in remission, you must continue to take your medication, even if you feel well. In remission, the dose should be reduced only on recommendation of your specialist.

How long will I be taking 5 ASAs?

They help to keep the bowel condition under control (remission) and to reduce the risk of flare ups. We would usually advise that you take these treatments long term. In addition, when taken long term they have some benefit in reducing the risk of colon cancer in patients with colitis.

What dose will I take?

The dose on which you are started will be decided by your doctor in discussion with you and usually depends on the activity of the disease. This may be increased or decreased according to response, or if side effects occurred. You will usually remain on a dose to help keep your disease under control; this is known as a maintenance dose.

Are there any side effects?

In general, these drugs are well tolerated by most patients who take them. However, as with all medications, there may be side effects. These include nausea, vomiting, headaches, hair loss and rashes. On rare occasions, they can irritate your liver, kidneys and blood cells. An even smaller number of patients can be particularly sensitive to these drugs and may develop unexplained bleeding, anaemia, sore throat and rash soon after starting these drugs. If you experience any of these symptoms you should get your blood tests checked immediately and consult your doctor, or use the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) help line.

What about monitoring?

You should have your bloods checked within 4 weeks after starting the medication and at least yearly thereafter. You should have your Full Blood Count and Biochemical Profile checked, as well as additional tests requested by your doctor or specialist nurse.

Will it react with my other medications?

Most drugs can be taken safely, however always check with your doctor or pharmacist first.

Can I have immunisations whilst taking 5-ASAs?

It is safe to have vaccinations whilst on 5-ASAs.

Can I drink alcohol whilst taking 5-ASAs?

There are no known problems related to alcohol intake but consumption should be within government recommendations.

Useful contacts

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact: IBD Nurse Specialists Tel no: (01482) 608982

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

We collect and use your information to provide you with care and treatment. As part of your care, information about you will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.