A comparison of non-tapering vs. tapering prednisolone in acute exacerbation of asthma involving use of the low-dose ACTH test

Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2002 Jun;40(6):256-62. doi: 10.5414/cpp40256.


Objective: To determine if there is a difference in early relapse rates and adrenal suppression between patients receiving an 8-day course of 40 mg/day prednisolone and those receiving an 8-day tapering course of prednisolone.

Methods: This was a prospective, randomized, open clinical trial conducted in a tertiary care center. All asthmatic patients with exacerbation who were judged well enough for discharge home from the emergency department were eligible for participation. Patients with a history of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, pneumonia, pneumothorax, or other pulmonary process and asthmatics already using inhaled or oral steroids within 2 weeks of admission to the emergency department were excluded. Patients on discharge were administered either on 8-day course of 40 mg/day prednisolone or an 8-day tapering course of prednisolone (tapering from 40 mg to 0 mg). Patients were asked to return on Day 12 for cosyntropin stimulated test and pulmonary function testing and on Day 21 for pulmonary function testing only.

Results: A group of 13 patients treated with non-tapering course (40 mg/day) of prednisolone for 8 days were compared to a group of 13 patients treated with a tapering course (40 mg taper by 5 mg/day) for 8 days. There were no differences in the FEV1 percent predicted (Days 12 and 21), the incidence of relapse, or the incidence of adrenal suppression between the 2 groups.

Conclusion: In this small study, we found no significant difference in relapse rate or adrenal suppression between asthmatics receiving an 8-day tapering dose of prednisolone and those receiving 40 mg/day prednisolone upon discharge from the emergency department.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / administration & dosage
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage*
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Prednisolone
  • Hydrocortisone