Health, Pain

Short Term Steroid Use Comes With Risks

Millions of prescriptions for short term steroid use are written every year to people hoping to ease the misery of everything from back pain to allergies. Now comes a report from researchers at the University of Michigan suggesting that such short term use is not without risks. A U of Michigan news release reports that people taking the pills were found to be more likely to break a bone, have a potentially dangerous blood clot or suffer a life-threatening bout of sepsis in the months after their treatment, compared with similar adults who didn’t use corticosteroids. The study used data from 1.5 million non-elderly American adults with private insurance. One in 5 of them filled a short-term prescription for oral corticosteroids such as prednisone sometime in the three-year study period. While the rates of the serious events were highest in the first 30 days after a prescription, they stayed elevated even three months later. The researchers found higher rates of sepsis, venous thromboembolism (VTE) and fractures among short-term steroid users. When they compared short-term steroid users with non-steroid users, looking for the three serious issues in the 5 to 90 days after either the clinic visit closest to when the steroid prescription was filled, they saw that 0.05 percent of those who got steroids were admitted to a hospital with a primary diagnosis of sepsis, compared with 0.02 percent of non-steroid users. For clots, it was 0.14 percent compared with 0.09 percent, and for fracture, it was 0.51 percent compared with 0.39 percent.

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