Glucocorticoids dosing in obese subjects: A systematic review

Therapie. 2019 Sep;74(4):451-458. doi: 10.1016/j.therap.2018.11.016. Epub 2019 Feb 14.


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are amongst the most widely used and effective treatments to control inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. In obese subjects, drug dosing adjusted by body weight is problematic, all the more so as patients are at higher risk of GC metabolic side effects. We propose here to describe the determinants of drug pharmacokinetics (PK) in obese subjects and GC pharmacology, and to identify the existing PK studies that may help discussing the best size descriptor for GC dosing in obese subjects. A clinician and a pharmacist screened PubMed using the MeSH Terms: "glucocorticoids" OR "steroidal agents" AND "pharmacokinetics" AND "obesity" OR "overweight". The search was limited to the publications written in English language and to those performed in humans. A systematic search using the MeSH terms was performed until August 31st, 2017. Only three such PK studies have been published so far that compare dexamethasone, prednisolone and methylprednisolone in obese and normal weight subjects. The studies concur that GC partially distribute in the excess of body weight and that adjustment by total body weight (TBW) or by body weight (BW) excess would increase the initial plasma GC concentration after a loading dose and would thus be inappropriate. Contradictory results are observed regarding GC exposure or clearance according to the GC studied. Behind this overwhelming lack of conclusive evidence for adjusting GC by body weight, further PK studies are clearly needed for guiding their dosing. Furthermore, studies demonstrated an increased sensibility to GC, even when GC exposure was reduced, suggesting that adjustment by body weight may not only be unnecessary but also dangerous.

Keywords: Drug dosing; Glucocorticoids; Obesity; Pharmacokinetics; Systemic disease.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Dosage Calculations*
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / metabolism


  • Glucocorticoids