Inhaled corticosteroids in lung diseases. Academic Article uri icon


  • Inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) are used extensively in the treatment of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) due to their broad antiinflammatory effects. They improve lung function, symptoms, and quality of life and reduce exacerbations in both conditions but do not alter the progression of disease. They decrease mortality in asthma but not COPD. The available ICSs vary in their therapeutic index and potency. Although ICSs are used in all age groups, younger and smaller children may be at a greater risk for adverse systemic effects because they can receive higher mg/kg doses of ICSs compared with older children. Most of the benefit from ICSs occurs in the low to medium dose range. Minimal additional improvement is seen with higher doses, although some patients may benefit from higher doses. Although ICSs are the preferred agents for managing persistent asthma in all ages, their benefit in COPD is more controversial. When used appropriately, ICSs have few adverse events at low to medium doses, but risk increases with high-dose ICSs. Although several new drugs are being developed and evaluated, it is unlikely that any of these new medications will replace ICSs as the preferred initial long-term controller therapy for asthma, but more effective initial controller therapy could be developed for COPD.

publication date

  • April 2013