Background: We recently reported the efficacy of indigo naturalis (IN) in patients with active ulcerative colitis (UC) in a randomized controlled trial (INDIGO study). However, few studies have been conducted to investigate whether IN is effective even in treatment-refractory cases, such as in those with steroid dependency and anti-TNF refractoriness. Methods: In the INDIGO study, 86 patients with active UC were randomly assigned to an IN group (0.5–2.0 g daily) or placebo group. The rate of clinical response (CR), mucosal healing (MH), and change in fecal calprotectin (FCP) levels was compared between refractory [patients with steroid-dependent disease, previous use of anti-TNF-α, and concomitant use of immunomodulators (IM)] and non-refractory patients. We also analyzed factors predicting CR and MH at week 8. Results: The rates of CR of IN group were significantly higher than placebo group, even in patients with steroid-dependent disease (p < 0.001), previous use of anti-TNF-α (p = 0.002), and concomitant use of IM (p = 0.013). The rates of MH in IN group were significantly higher than in placebo group in patients with steroid-dependent disease (p = 0.009). In the IN group, median FCP levels, at week 8, were significantly lower than baseline in patients with steroid-dependent disease and patients with the previous use of anti-TNF-α (p < 0.001, respectively). Multivariate analysis indicated that the previous use of anti-TNF-α was not a predictive factor for CR and MH at week 8. Conclusions: In a sub-analysis of data from a randomized placebo-controlled trial, we found that IN may be useful even in patients with steroid-dependent disease and patients with the previous use of anti-TNF-α.
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