Oral corticosteroid exposure and adverse effects in asthmatic patients

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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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