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Efficacy, duration of use and safety of glucocorticoids: a systematic literature review informing the 2022 update of the EULAR recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis

Abstract

This systematic literature review (SLR) regarding the efficacy, duration of use and safety of glucocorticoids (GCs), was performed to inform the 2022 update of the EULAR recommendations for the management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Studies on GC efficacy were identified from a separate search on the efficacy of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). A combined search was performed for the duration of use and safety of GCs in RA patients. Dose-defined and time-defined GC treatment of any dose and duration (excluding intra-articular GCs) prescribed in combination with other DMARDs were considered. Results are presented descriptively. Two included studies confirmed the efficacy of GC bridging as initial therapy, with equal efficacy after 2 years of initial doses of 30 mg/day compared with 60 mg/day prednisone. Based on a recently performed SLR, in clinical trials most patients starting initial GC bridging are able to stop GCs within 12 (22% patients continued on GCs) to 24 months (10% patients continued on GCs). The safety search included 12 RCTs and 21 observational studies. Well-known safety risks of GC use were confirmed, including an increased risk of osteoporotic fractures, serious infections, diabetes and mortality. Data on cardiovascular outcomes were Inconsistent. Overall, safety risks increased with increasing dose and/or duration, but evidence on which dose is safe was conflicting. In conclusion, this SLR has confirmed the efficacy of GCs in the treatment of RA. In clinical trials, most patients have shown to be able to stop GCs within 12–24 months. Well-known safety risks of GC use have been confirmed, but with heterogeneity between studies.

  • Glucocorticoids
  • Epidemiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid

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