The aim of this article is to bring less well recognised adverse effects of inhaled corticosteroids to the attention of prescribers. Whilst inhaled steroids have a more favourable side effect profile than systemic steroids, they are not free from adverse effects. The dose of inhaled steroids used should be carefully monitored, and kept at the lowest dose necessary to maintain adequate control of the patient’s disease process. Be particularly aware of the cumulative effect of co-prescribing various dose forms of corticosteroids (inhaled, intranasal, oral and topical preparations).
Stopping corticosteroid therapy
In autoimmune disease, clear end-points should be set before starting therapy. Corticosteroids may improve mood and give patients a feeling of general well-being unrelated to the effect on the disease being treated. Subjective assessments can therefore be misleading. Objective clinical parameters should be used to monitor the need for continuing or restarting therapy . proteinuria in nephritis, spirometry in asthma and creatinine kinase in myositis. Therapy should be tapered off. For example, with prednis(ol)one, the dose is reduced in steps of -5 mg every 3-7 days down to 15 mg/day. At that point, switch to alternate day therapy and reduce in mg steps over 2-3 weeks. This minimises the impact on mood and lessens the drop in general well-being.
Long-acting bronchodilators in combination with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are recommended to decrease the risk of recurrent exacerbations in patients with Global initiative for chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) stage 3-4 chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is increasing concern about the clinical benefit and long-term safety of ICS use in COPD patients. The WISDOM (Withdrawal of Inhaled Steroids During Optimised bronchodilator Management) study ( NCT00975195 ) aims to evaluate the need for ICS use via stepwise withdrawal of ICS in COPD patients (GOLD 3-4 with a history of at least one exacerbation during the 12-month period prior to screening) receiving dual bronchodilation. During the 6-week run-in period, 2456 patients receive tiotropium 18 μg once daily, salmeterol 50 μg twice daily and fluticasone 500 μg twice daily. In a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, active-controlled fashion, one group of patients continues to receive tiotropium, salmeterol and fluticasone, while the second group initiates stepwise withdrawal of fluticasone. The primary end point is time to first moderate or severe exacerbation following randomized treatment over 52 weeks. Lung function, symptoms and safety are also assessed. A sub-study aims to identify sub-populations and markers of steroid need. This study will determine the benefit of continued ICS therapy in combination with dual long-acting bronchodilators in COPD.