Tofacitinib: New oral drug for Ulcerative Colitis

03 December 2018

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved new drug Tofacitinib for adults with Ulcerative Colitis.

We work with people living with Crohn's and Colitis to get new drugs approved, and we welcome this new treatment option for people with Colitis where other treatment has stopped working. 

Tofacitinib provides new hope for people with Colitis for whom biological therapy, such as infliximab or adalimumab has failed, or for people who want to avoid surgery.

As part of the NICE Appraisal Committee approval process, we gave evidence including powerful testimonials from people living with Colitis who had taken part in the tofacitinib clinical trials.


I had multiple failed attempts at other medication over two years which affected my studies, work and social life, before joining the trial for tofacitinib. I was on this treatment successfully for two and a half years during which time I completed my studies and qualified as an adult nurse. I felt better than I had in years.

Lottie Hughes
Patient expert

By the time I was offered this trial, I was desperate to find anything that could give me back some quality of life. I can honestly say that tofacitinib has totally changed my life, it is like I am a completely new person, and I have now been in remission for over three years!

Shirley Leather
Patient expert

Tofacitinib (brand name Xeljanz) is part of the class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, which are currently used to treat arthritis. JAKs are enzymes that play a role in activating the body’s immune response, and tofacitinib blocks this process, which may stop the inflammatory process in Ulcerative Colitis. Because the drug is a small molecule, it is less likely to stop working over time, which is another benefit.

Tofacitinib is taken orally, compared to biologics which are admitted through infusions and injections. This is good for people who may find tablets an easier, more pleasant way of taking medication. The drug would be taken in tablet form twice daily for eight weeks, usually going down to a lower dosage for maintenance.


We are delighted that NICE have approved the use of tofacitinib for people with Ulcerative Colitis who have not been receptive to other treatments or who have lost response to their treatments. The symptoms of Colitis can be debilitating, and the anxiety of surgery can weigh heavily on people who have exhausted other options. Tofacitinib offers a huge amount of hope to patients who need another option.

Sarah Berry
Health Policy and Public Affairs Officer, Crohn’s & Colitis UK

The choice of treatment between tofacitinib, biological drugs and surgery should be made on an individual basis after talking with your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of the options. The drug will be made available on the NHS by early 2019. 


In Northern Ireland, NICE guidance is subject to a local review process, which begins once NICE have issued their final guidance.

In Scotland, the Scottish Medicines Consortium haven't reviewed tofacitinib for Colitis yet, and is expected to advise in February 2019. Crohn’s & Colitis UK have submitted evidence in response to their call.


  • Find out how to understand and manage your symptoms on the support for you section on our website.
  • We provide information about drug treatment and care options, and we will have a leaflet on tofacitinib available in 2019. Have a look at our other publications.