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Presse Med. 2000 Sep 16;29(16):1479-87.

[Corticosteroid therapy of non-asthmatic chronic obstructive bronchopneumopathies].

[Article in French]

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Service de Pneumologie et de Réanimation respiratoire, Hôpital Beaujon, Clichy.


BASIS OF TREATMENT: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common condition. Medical, and particularly drug, therapy still provides insufficiently effective relief. Corticosteroid treatment relies on the effect of these drugs on the underlying inflammatory mechanisms. Their efficacy has been demonstrated in asthma which exhibits certain features common with COPD.


Short-term corticosteroid regimens are generally well tolerated. Clinical data favor their use in certain cases of acute decompensation. Long-term systemic regimens are not warranted due to the risk of adverse effects and the difficulty in maintaining appropriate dosages. Inhaled corticosteroids are widely used although the efficacy remains controversial.


Clear evidence of efficacy from large controlled trials is still lacking. The difficulty encountered in obtaining such evidence is an indication of the minimal impact of such treatment and raises the question of its clinical pertinence. Patients exhibiting features similar to those observed in asthma (atopy, eosinophilia, improvement with bronchodilatation, non-smokers...) should be able to benefit from corticosteroids. For others a therapeutic test would be advisable to identify responders who could benefit from a preventive effect on the progression of COPD or associated asthma. A test lasting a few weeks at sufficient dosage is needed for subjective and objective (respiratory function tests) assessment. This costly therapy would not be warranted in non-responders, particularly in light of the expected secondary effects. Current evidence does not point to corticosteroid therapy as the much needed fully effective treatment for COPD.

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