Oral steroids for long-term use in cystic fibrosis

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Oct 5:(10):CD000407. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000407.pub2.


Background: In cystic fibrosis (CF) airway obstruction and recurrent respiratory infection lead to inflammation, long-term lung damage, respiratory failure and death. Anti-inflammatory agents, e.g. oral corticosteroids are used since inflammation occurs early in disease.

Objectives: To assess the effectiveness of oral corticosteroids in respiratory complications in CF, particularly lung function and adverse events. We examined long-term use (over 30 days) only.

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane CF and Genetic Disorders Group Trials Register comprising references identified from comprehensive electronic database searches and handsearches of relevant journals and abstract books of conference proceedings.Most recent search: 06 April 2011.

Selection criteria: Randomised trials comparing oral corticosteroids given for more than 30 days with placebo or no additional therapy in people with CF.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed study eligibility and quality.

Main results: Of nine studies identified, three (354 participants) were included: two with four-year follow up and one with 12-weeks follow up. Data were lacking on predefined outcomes; common outcomes were examined at different time-points and presented differently. Meta-analyses were not possible.In one study, oral corticosteroids at prednisolone-equivalent dose of 1 mg/kg alternate days slowed progression of lung disease; at two and four years, % predicted FEV(1) in the 1 mg/kg group changed significantly more than in the placebo group (P < 0.02). During the first two years, the 2 mg/kg group was not significantly different from the placebo group. Linear growth retardation was observed from six months in the 2 mg/kg alternate days prednisolone group and from 24 months in the 1 mg/kg alternate days prednisolone group.Adverse events terminated one four-year study early. Year 10 follow up showed catch-up growth started two years after treatment ceased. Alternate-day treatment with oral corticosteroids may have impaired growth until adulthood in boys.

Authors' conclusions: Oral corticosteroids at prednisolone-equivalent dose of 1 to 2 mg/kg alternate days appear to slow progression of lung disease in CF; benefit should be weighed against occurrence of adverse events. Risk-benefit analysis of low-dose alternate days corticosteroids is important and the short-term use of oral corticosteroids should be better evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications
  • Cystic Fibrosis / drug therapy*
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Prednisolone / adverse effects
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisolone