Azodisalicylate, used to treat ulcerative colitis, causes diarrhea in up to 12.5% of patients. We compared the in vitro effects of azodisalicylate, sulfasalazine, and 5-aminosalicylic acid on rabbit intestinal electrolyte transport. Distal ileal mucosae mounted in Ussing chambers were exposed to varying concentrations of the drugs. Mucosal addition of azodisalicylate (>5 mM) caused the greatest aniondependent increase in short-circuit current of 83 μA/cm2 (ED50 = 0.3 mM). Isotope flux measurements suggest that azodisalicylate may stimulate predominantly electrogenic HCO3 secretion and induces net NaCl secretion. In contrast, serosal addition of azodisalicylate and sulfasalazine (>5 mM) decreased short-circuit current, and 5-aminosalicylic acid had no effect. Azodisalicylate had no effect on ion transport in distal colon. The effects of azodisalicylate in ileum were not inhibited with piroxicam (an inhibitor of cyclooxygenase). Mucosal cyclic adenosine monophosphate and cyclic guanosine monophosphate levels were unchanged after ileal exposure to azodisalicylate. Azodisalicylate appears to be a mechanistically unusual secretagogue, possibly explaining the increased incidence of diarrhea seen in patients taking the drug.
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