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Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2012 Mar;18(2):118-24. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32834e9001.

Should androgenic anabolic steroids be considered in the treatment regime of selected chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients?

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

PURPOSE OF REVIEW:

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a widespread disease with high morbidity rates. Advanced stages can be complicated by unintentional weight loss and muscle wasting, which may contribute to increased morbidity and mortality. Reversal of weight loss increases muscle strength and exercise capacity and improves survival. This can partly be achieved by nutritional support, preferably combined with increase in exercise. Androgenic anabolic steroids (AASs), of which testosterone is the parent hormone, increase muscle size and strength. Due to these anabolic effects, AASs may emerge as a treatment option in COPD patients suffering from muscle wasting.

RECENT FINDINGS:

Seven trials investigated the effects of AAS in patients with COPD. Some studies also included nutritional therapy and/or a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Compared with placebo, AASs increase lean body mass (LBM) and muscle size. However, no consistent effects on muscle strength, exercise capacity, or pulmonary function are seen.

SUMMARY:

AASs increase LBM in patients with advanced stages of COPD. No consistent beneficial effect on other endpoints was demonstrated in the reviewed trials. However, probably higher doses of AASs are needed to exert a clinically meaningful effect on muscle strength or exercise capacity. Currently, no evidence is available to recommend AASs to all patients with COPD. In individual cases, treatment with AASs can be considered, particularly in men with advanced COPD, moderate-to-severe functional impairment, muscle wasting and on chronic corticosteroid therapy. Treatment with AASs should preferably be combined with a rehabilitation program and nutritional support. AASs should not be used in women or in men with symptomatic heart disease. When treatment with AASs is considered, intramuscular nandrolone-decanoate is preferred in a dose of 50-200 mg per week for a period of 12 weeks. However, the efficacy of AAS treatment in COPD patients needs further clarification in well designed, adequately powered clinical studies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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