Oral corticosteroid exposure and adverse effects in asthmatic patients

Patrick W Sullivan, Vahram H Ghushchyan, Gary Globe, Michael Schatz
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2018, 141 (1): 110-116.e7

BACKGROUND: Significant adverse effects (AEs) have been associated with continuous exposure to oral corticosteroids (OCSs). The potential association with intermittent exposure is unknown.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to assess the association between OCSs and AEs based on the number of OCS prescriptions.

METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study of asthmatic patients 18 years and older in the 2000-2014 MarketScan data set. Propensity score matching was used at baseline (12 months before the index date: first OCS use). Logistic regression was used to examine the association between OCSs and new incident AEs (either combined or individual) controlling for covariates. Follow-up continued for 24 months minimum and 10 years maximum after the index date.

RESULTS: There were 72,063 and 156,373 subjects in the OCS and no OCS cohorts, respectively. Subjects taking 4 or more OCS (1-3) prescriptions within the year had 1.29 (1.04) times the odds of experiencing a new AE within the year. Each year of exposure to 4 or more OCS prescriptions (current and past) resulted in 1.20 times the odds of having an AE in the current year. Exposure to 4 or more prescriptions was associated with significantly greater odds of AEs for osteoporosis, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal ulcers/bleeds, fractures, and cataracts (odds, 1.21-1.44 depending on the AE).

CONCLUSION: Although previous research has documented the deleterious effect of continuous OCS exposure in patients with severe asthma, our results suggest that each OCS prescription might result in a cumulative burden on current and future health regardless of dose and duration. OCS-sparing strategies are extremely important to improve patient outcomes.


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