The authors noted that 52 percent of the patients were on high-dose inhaled corticosteroids (1,000 micrograms or more per day). At those levels, the drug can lead to significant symptoms related to adrenal suppression and insufficiency. Also, among pediatric patients, slowing of linear growth has been a problem for individuals taking the drug for a year or more.
Over a 6-month period, the researchers studied 84 CF patients (median age 14.6 years) who were using an inhaled corticosteroid (fluticasone) and 87 CF patients (median age 15.8 years) who were not.
"Replacing the inhaled corticosteroids with a placebo was found to be safe as there was no significant increase in lung-related adverse effects leading to withdrawal from the study, nor an increased need for oral corticosteroids," said Dr. Balfour-Lynn.
The researchers stressed that they were not advocating stopping inhaled corticosteroid use in all CF patients, but urging clinicians to assess the need in each individual.
"If there is objective evidence that a patients benefited when inhaled corticosteroids were first started, then it is likely they should be continued on the drug," said Dr. Balfour-Lynn.