Bad reaction to Asacol or first flare up?

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New Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 4/2/2009 11:01 AM (GMT -6)   
Hello all! I'm posting on behalf of my husband, who was diagnosed with possible ulcerative colitis/Crohn's disease (not sure which) in January of this year. Just last week, he had what we think is a really bad reaction to the medication he’s on. Has anyone else experienced anything like this?

Some background: hubby (he's 26) had a colonoscopy and pill cam endoscopy in January, and was prescribed Asacol (3 pills 3x a day). It seemed to help, but his symptoms were fairly mild to begin with (occasional blood in stool, gas, and indigestion with stomach cramps maybe once a month – never had a true flare up as far as we can tell).

Ok, here’s the story (sorry for the long post!):

He took his meds at breakfast on Tuesday (3/24), and by 10 a.m., he was vomiting every few minutes and experiencing chest pain that radiated down his left arm. He came home with what we thought was the flu (I’d had a nasty cold that week too), slept for nearly two days straight, and felt fine again. While he was sick, he wasn’t eating much and so didn’t take any Asacol for two days.

Went back to work on Friday (3/27), and the same thing happened. Took Asacol at breakfast for the first time in two days, and was throwing up by 10 that morning. I called his GI specialist, who suggested that we take him off the Asacol for the weekend and give him Prilosec OTC with the Asacol at breakfast on Monday. Again, he slept for much of Saturday, felt perfectly fine Sunday, and went back to work on Monday (3/30).

He took the Prilosec with Asacol at breakfast and was fine until his lunch dose. That one was just the Asacol, and by 3 p.m., he was vomiting and experiencing worse pain than either of the two previous times. He threw up 20-30 times and couldn’t keep anything down – water, saltine crackers, Tums, lunch, etc. all came right back up. I called his doctor again, and was told that Asacol couldn’t possibly be the culprit, but that we should go to the emergency room if he kept having chest pain (duh!).

So, away we went. Ended up waiting for over two hours before he even had an EKG or his temperature taken – by that time, he was running a fever and doubled over in the worst pain I’ve ever seen in anyone. His chest was hurting, arm was tingling, he was hyperventilating, and said it felt like someone was taking an egg beater to his whole abdomen. Several of his symptoms seemed to indicate a heart attack.

We were finally admitted after sitting there for nearly five hours. They put him on a saline/morphine IV to rehydrate him and alleviate the pain, but by that point he was starting to feel better on his own. The EKG turned out ok, and the doctor said he thought the whole thing was just a bad flare-up of the UC/Crohn’s. He’s doing fine now and is back at work (and NOT taking Asacol).

Neither of us is really satisfied with that diagnosis. He’s never had a real flare-up before, so it seems odd for him to suddenly start now that he is on medication. Plus, from what I’ve read, flare-ups don’t usually go away in a day or two WITHOUT medication, and then return precisely 3 hours after starting meds again. But it also seems odd that he could take the Asacol for two months and only then develop an allergy to it… although he is a big guy (6’1” and around 220 lbs).

Soo… what do you think? Anyone else have a similar experience?

Post Edited (Joyetc) : 4/2/2009 10:06:21 AM (GMT-6)

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2004
Total Posts : 23551
   Posted 4/2/2009 1:48 PM (GMT -6)   
First of all, he's already had his first flare. Without the initial flare then he wouldn't have know that something was wrong :) But to me it sounds like a bad reaction to the medication. Is he allergic to aspirin based products?
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New Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 4/2/2009 2:41 PM (GMT -6)   
He's not allergic to Aspirin, at least not that we know of.

And I'm a little stumped by the definition of a flare. He certainly never had pain like this before -- the only reason he saw a GI specialist at all was the indigestion and occasional blood. Those symptoms were pretty much always there, and never seemed to really get better or worse.

I'm mainly just frustrated that both doctors wrote it off as a flare, rather than a reaction to the meds. It seems like they think Asacol has no side effects.

Regular Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 87
   Posted 4/2/2009 4:10 PM (GMT -6)   
I was diagnosed with UC in February and was first prescribed Asacol (12 pills/day). Throughout my first week on this drug I became more and more ill. By day 7, my body was aching and I was unable to move my arms/neck/shoulders not to mention the UC was worse. I tried to tell my doctor rwice I thought I was reacting badly to the medicine, but they assured me that this medicine was nearly side-effect less. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I spent a week in the hospital recovering from the allergy to the medicine and the worsening colitis.  Since being released they also tried Colazol and I began the flu like symptoms again after just 3 doses. As of now, it has been decided I cannot tolerate any ASAs and I currently on prednisone - the only thing that has helped me so far.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 2855
   Posted 4/2/2009 4:45 PM (GMT -6)   
So sorry to hear about his suffering, that must have been miserable. The ER is always a miserable way to get treatment.

I suppose with allergies and UC having some of the same symptoms, and Asacol being a pretty mild drug but with just a special coating, it is not surprising they didn't think it was just the UC acting up. But we always have to be assertive with our care decisions, and trusts our instincts!
49 year old female attorney, diagnosed UC/pancolitis 1985, no surgery but much suffering. Asacol/5ASA 6x400 mg maintenance for 20+ years; use prednisone & Rowasa for flares. 
August 2008 sought care of naturopathic doctor. Food sensitivity test showed wheat/gluten, other intolerances; eliminated all wheat/gluten from my diet. Probiotics (Ultimate Flora, 50 billion), trying Curamin. 
Flaring, seasonal? or supplements too harsh? Back on prednisone, tried to taper but now back up to 20-30 after several really bad days. Waiting for insurance decison on Humira...soon... 

New Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 4/3/2009 5:16 PM (GMT -6)   
Thanks for your comments! We're in the process of hunting down a different (BETTER!) GI specialist right now... hopefully one that will be better at communication and will actually listen to my husband.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 678
   Posted 4/3/2009 6:37 PM (GMT -6)   
Sounds like a bad reaction to the Asacol to me. I tried 3 different 5ASA's and they all made me sooo sick. I think I'm allergic to mesalamine.
31 yr old female currently breastfeeding (weaning so I can start 6mp)
Mild Pancolitis
I've had UC since 2000 but was in remission for most of those 8 years med free
Cannot tolerate mesalamine - starting 6mp soon

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 187
   Posted 4/5/2009 11:16 PM (GMT -6)   
My symptoms got worse when I took Asacol.
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