Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Asthma drugs suppress growth

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Corticosteroid drugs that are given by inhalers to children with asthma may suppress their growth, evidence suggests. Two new systematic reviews published in The Cochrane Library focus on the effects of inhaled corticosteroid drugs (ICS) on growth rates. The authors found children’s growth slowed in the first year of treatment, although the effects were minimised by using lower doses.

Inhaled corticosteroids are prescribed as first-line treatments for adults and children with persistent asthma. They are the most effective drugs for controlling asthma and clearly reduce asthma deaths, hospital visits and the number and severity of exacerbations, and improve quality of life. Yet, their potential effect on the growth of children is a source of worry for parents and doctors. Worldwide, seven ICS drugs are currently available: beclomethasone, budesonide, ciclesonide, flunisolide, fluticasone, mometasone and triamcinolone. Ciclesonide, fluticasone and mometasone are newer and supposedly safer drugs.

The first systematic review focused on 25 trials involving 8,471 children up to 18 years old with mild to moderate persistent asthma. These trials tested all available inhaled corticosteroids except triamcinolone and showed that, as a group, they suppressed growth rates when compared to placebos or non-steroidal drugs. 14 of the trials, involving 5,717 children,...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.