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Schmerz. 2012 Sep;26(5):550-67. doi: 10.1007/s00482-012-1214-9.

[Glucocorticoids and androgens for treatment of tiredness and weakness in palliative care patients : a systematic review].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Klinik f├╝r Palliativmedizin, Universit├Ątsklinikum Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Str. 25, 53127, Bonn, Deutschland.



The therapy of tiredness, weakness and fatigue in palliative care patients is of growing interest. Glucocorticoids and androgens are habitually mentioned drugs for treatment. In this review evidence for glucocorticoids and androgens for these indications in palliative care patients are presented.


A systematic search of PubMed and Embase for studies on glucocorticoids and androgens for fatigue, asthenia, sedation, tiredness, weakness, exhaustion, cachexia, drowsiness and wasting in palliative care was carried out in August 2011. Furthermore, the Cochrane Library, references from the literature and leading textbooks were also searched. Study information was entered in a standardized extraction sheet. By a categorization of studies five endpoints were distinguished: fatigue, strength/weakness, tiredness, well being/quality of life and energy/activity/performance.


A total of 11 controlled studies with glucocorticoids and 13 controlled studies with androgens were included. In addition four uncontrolled studies, two case series and two surveys with glucocorticoids as well as six uncontrolled studies and one case series with androgen treatment were analyzed. All controlled trials of glucocorticoids were performed in cancer patients and all but one controlled trial of androgens in patients with HIV/AIDS. Glucocorticoids improved quality of life but results for changes of fatigue and weakness were inconsistent. Tiredness and energy were not improved. Androgens had a positive effect on fatigue and quality of life and showed variable effects on weakness. Androgens did not improve energy. Side effects were frequently documented but only rarely resulted in discontinuation of therapy.


With the existing evidence no general recommendation for glucocorticoid and androgen use in tiredness and weakness in palliative care patients can be given; however, glucocorticoids in cancer patients and androgens in HIV positive-patients can be used in an individual trial for improving patient quality of life. The use in patients suffering from other disease entities should be evaluated in randomized controlled trials with a similar setting. The English full text version of this article will be available in SpringerLink as of November 2012 (under "Supplemental").

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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