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Eur Respir J. 2001 Feb;17(2):287-94.

Inhaled corticosteroids reduce growth. Or do they?

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Isala Klinieken/Weezenlanden Hospital, The Netherlands.


The class label warning in the United States for inhaled corticosteroids (ICS's) states that these drugs may reduce growth velocity in children. In this paper, the evidence for this warning is reviewed from a clinical point of view. Children with asthma tend to grow slower than their healthy peers during the prepubertal years because they go into puberty at a later age. However, asthmatic children do achieve a (near) normal adult height. In randomized controlled clinical trials, the use of inhaled beclomethasone, budesonide and fluticasone is associated with a reduced growth during the first months of therapy, in the order of magnitude of approximately 0.5-1.5 cm x yr(-1). It is, however, unlikely that such an effect continues or persists because accumulating evidence shows that asthmatic children, even when they have been treated with ICS for years, attain normal adult height. Individual rare cases have been reported, however, where ICS use was associated with clinically relevant growth suppression. Inhaled corticosteroids are the most effective therapy available for maintenance treatment of childhood asthma. Fear of reduced growth velocity is based on exceptional cases and not on group data. It should, therefore, not be a reason to withhold or withdraw such highly effective treatment in children with asthma.

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