The mechanism of action of 5-aminosalicylic acid is unknown, but appears exert its anti-inflammatory effects locally (in the GI tract) rather than systemically. Mucosal production of arachidonic acid metabolites, both through the cyclooxygenase pathways (catalyzes the formation of prostaglandin precursors from arachidonic acid), and through the lipoxygenase pathways (catalyzes the formation of leukotrienes and hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acids from arachidonic acid and its metabolites), is increased in patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, it is possible that 5-aminosalicylic acid diminishes inflammation by blocking production of arachidonic acid metabolites in the colon through both the inhibition of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase.
Balsalazide is a prodrug that has little or no pharmacologic activity until it is enzymatically cleaved in the colon to produce mesalamine (5-aminosalicylic acid), an anti inflammatory drug indicated for the treatment of mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis. Balsalazide disodium is delivered intact to the colon where it is cleaved by bacterial azoreduction to release equimolar quantities of mesalamine, which is the therapeutically active portion of the molecule, and the intert 4-aminobenzoyl-(beta)-alanine. As a result, the spectrum of pharmacologic activity of balsalazide is similar to that of mesalamine.
Cleaved in the colon via bacterial azoreduction to 5–aminosalicylic acid (5–ASA) and 4–aminobenzoyl-beta-alanine, the inactive carrier moiety.
A single oral dose of balsalazide disodium at 5 grams/kg or 4-aminobenzoyl-(beta)-alanine, a metabolite of balsalazide disodium, at 1 gram/kg was non-lethal in mice and rats. No symptoms of acute toxicity were seen at these doses.