Background: Oral corticosteroids (OCS) are a mainstay of asthma treatment. Their use increases the risk of various corticosteroid-related adverse events, but the extent of risk is poorly characterized.
Objective: To determine the incremental risk of possible corticosteroid-related adverse events (AE) in asthma among patients with high OCS use compared with patients who do not use OCS.
Methods: Patients with asthma in a commercial health care claims data base who were high-OCS users (≥30 days of OCS use annually) were matched to no-OCS users by age, sex, and geographic region, and the presence or absence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as a comorbidity. We examined bone-related conditions, pneumonia, opportunistic infections, diabetes mellitus, and other disorders as potential AEs by using χ(2) tests to compare potential AE prevalence between the cohorts, with and without stratification by a COPD diagnosis. We controlled for the number of inhaled steroids (ICS) canisters filled.
Results: A total of 3604 patients with asthma and high OCS use were matched to 3604 patients who did not use OCS (mean age, 54.4; 68.1% female; 44.9% with COPD). Patients with high OCS use had statistically significantly higher rates of any potential AE compared with patients who did not use OCS (83.5% versus 78.1%), (p < 0.001). Rates of individual potential AEs were also higher in patients who used higher doses of OCS. Patterns of AEs were similar in patients with and those without COPD, with statistically significantly higher overall AE risk and individual risks in high-OCS users. The number of ICS canisters filled was not a significant predictor of AE.
Conclusion: Patients with asthma who were treated with OCS for ≥30 days per year have a greater overall risk of possible corticosteroid-related AEs compared with those patients with no OCS use, whether or not they had COPD.