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Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Oct;132(1):1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 May 18.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia--pharmacologic interventions from the prenatal phase to adulthood.

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Department of Paediatric Endocrinology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.


Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is one of the most common inherited autosomal recessive disorders, caused by deficiency of one of the enzymes involved in steroid synthesis. The clinical picture of the most prevalent form, i.e. 21-hydroxylase deficiency, is characterized by cortisol and mostly aldosterone deficiency and androgen excess (leading to congenital virilization in girls). Treatment consists of glucocorticoids, aimed at substitution of cortisol deficiency and, decrease of androgen excess. Usually supraphysiological doses of glucocorticoids are required to effectively suppress adrenal androgens. Furthermore, with the currently available glucocorticoid preparations, it is not possible to simulate a normal circadian rhythm in CAH patients. Therefore, it is a difficult task for (pediatric) endocrinologists to find the best balance between under- and overtreatment thereby avoiding important long term complications. In this review we will discuss the current pharmacologic treatment options. We give age dependent dose recommendations and describe the limitations of current treatment strategies. We discuss effects on fertility, bone density and cardiovascular risks. Recommendations about the use of glucocorticoids in case of fever or stress situations are given. The principles of treatment of non classic (mild) CAH are discussed in a separate section. Also prenatal therapy, to prevent congenital virilization of a female CAH newborn, is discussed. Furthermore, an overview of alternative pharmacological treatment options in the future is given.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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