Inhaled corticosteroids are the most common types of medication given to asthmatics or patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Because long-term use of some oral corticosteroids has been linked to decreased bone density, researchers examined whether taking the medications via inhalers had a similar effect on bone health.
The article, published in the Journal of Family Practice, summarizes the results from multiple studies following asthma patients for up to four years. The studies showed that:
•low to moderately-high doses had no effect on bone density or spinal fractures
•high doses decreased bone density, but had no effect on bone fractures
Thus, inhaled steroids at “conventional doses” do not appear to be linked to bone loss; higher doses may cause problems in some patients.
Because these studies were limited to four years, involved relatively young patients (average age was 40) and included more men than women, the authors point out that “We need better and longer-term studies to help advise our patients about the risks and benefits of inhaled corticosteroids therapy.”
Original Article: Gerayli, F. and Loven, B., 2007. “Do Inhaled Steroids Increase the Risk of Osteoporosis?” J Fam Practice.
Honsinger, R. and Michael, A., 2006. “Osteoporosis and Asthma Medications,” Am Acad. Allergy & Asthma & Immun. http://www.aaaai.org/patients/advocate/2006/summer/osteoporosis.asp
Golmohannadi, K. et al, 2003. “Health Technology Assessment of Inhaled Cortiocosteroids in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease,” abstract from meeting proceedings.