Management of endocrine disease: Glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency: Replace while we wait for evidence?

in European Journal of Endocrinology
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  • 1 K Laugesen, Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 2 L Broersen, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Netherlands
  • 3 S Hansen, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 4 O Dekkers, Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, Netherlands
  • 5 H Sørensen, Department of Clinical Epidmiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 6 J Jorgensen, Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

Correspondence: Kristina Laugesen, Email: kristina.laugesen@clin.au.dk
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Glucocorticoids are, besides non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the most widely used anti-inflammatory medications. Prevalence studies indicate substantial use of both systemic and locally acting agents. A recognized adverse effect of glucocorticoid treatment is adrenal insufficiency, which is highly prevalent based on biochemical testing, but its clinical implications are poorly understood. Current evidence, including randomized trials and observational studies, indicates substantial variation among patients in both risk and course of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency, but both are currently unpredictable. Oral and intra-articular formulations, as well as long-term and high-dose treatments, carry the highest risk of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency defined by biochemical tests. However, no route of administration, treatment duration, or dose can be considered without risk. More research is needed to estimate the risk and temporal pattern of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency, to investigate its clinical implications, and to identify predictors of risk and prognosis. Randomized trials are required to evaluate whether hydrocortisone replacement therapy mitigates risk and symptoms of glucocorticoid-induced adrenal insufficiency in patients discontinuing glucocorticoid treatment. This review aims to provide an overview of available evidence, pointing to knowledge gaps and unmet needs.

 

     European Society of Endocrinology

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