Treatments for pulmonary sarcoidosis

Respir Med. 2008 Jan;102(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2007.08.010. Epub 2007 Oct 22.


Corticosteroids (oral or inhaled) are commonly used to treat pulmonary sarcoidosis; however, there is no consensus about when to start treatment, what dose of steroids to give and for how long. Immunosuppressive and cytotoxic agents (used in immunosuppressive doses) are used in addition to oral corticosteroids to treat multisystem and chronic sarcoidosis, or as steroid-sparing agents. We summarize the findings from two Cochrane systematic reviews that have examined the efficacy of corticosteroids and immunosuppressive and cytotoxic drugs in the treatment of pulmonary sarcoidosis. Studies of corticosteroids differed in outcome measures, dose of drug given and length of treatment. For many outcome measures, data could not be pooled for meta-analysis. Oral corticosteroids improved chest X-ray appearance over 3-24 months, with improvement in global score in one study. Little evidence was found of improvement in lung function or of any long-term disease-modifying effect. Follow-up data could not be analysed. Inhaled corticosteroids improved symptoms in one small study but not lung function or chest X-ray. Side-effects of steroids were not well reported. In the immunosuppressive and cytotoxics review, no data could be combined for meta-analysis. Data on lung function, chest X-ray and dyspnoea were largely inconclusive. Methotrexate had a steroid-sparing effect in one small study. Significant adverse events were associated with cyclosporine A, chloroquine and pentoxifylline. Evidence from randomized-controlled trials (RCTs) supporting the use of immunosuppressive and cytotoxic agents is limited.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Cytotoxins / adverse effects
  • Cytotoxins / therapeutic use*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine / methods
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sarcoidosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Cytotoxins
  • Immunosuppressive Agents