Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) improves pulmonary hypertension in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): a pilot study

Ann Endocrinol (Paris). 2012 Feb;73(1):20-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ando.2011.12.005. Epub 2012 Jan 26.


Objectives: It was previously shown that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) reverses chronic hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension (PH) in rats, but whether DHEA can improve the clinical and hemodynamic status of patients with PH associated to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (PH-COPD) has not been studied whereas it is a very severe poorly treated disease.

Patients and methods: Eight patients with PH-COPD were treated with DHEA (200mg daily orally) for 3 months. The primary end-point was the change in the 6-minute walk test (6-MWT) distance. Secondary end-points included pulmonary hemodynamics, lung function tests and tolerance of treatment.

Results: The 6-MWT increased in all cases, from 333m (median [IQR]) (257; 378) to 390m (362; 440) (P<0.05). Mean pulmonary artery pressure decreased from 26mmHg (25; 27) to 21.5mmHg (20; 25) (P<0.05) and pulmonary vascular resistance from 4.2UI (3.5; 4.4) to 2.6UI (2.5; 3.8) (P<0.05). The carbon monoxide diffusing capacity of the lung (DLCO % predicted) increased significantly from 27.4% (20.1; 29.3) to 36.4% (14.6; 39.6) (P<0.05). DHEA treatment did not change respiratory parameters of gas exchange and the 200mg per day of DHEA used was perfectly tolerated with no side effect reported.

Conclusion: DHEA treatment significantly improves 6-MWT distance, pulmonary hemodynamics and DLCO of patients with PH-COPD, without worsening gas exchange, as do other pharmacological treatments of PH (trial registration NCT00581087).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / therapeutic use*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Hemodynamics / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / drug effects
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Vascular Resistance / drug effects
  • Walking


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone

Associated data