Glucocorticoid corticosteroids for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

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BACKGROUNDDuchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is the most common muscular dystrophy of childhood. This incurable disease is characterised by muscle wasting and loss of walking ability leading to complete wheelchair dependence by 13 years of age. Prolongation of walking is one of the major aims of treatment.OBJECTIVEThe aim of this review was to assess whether glucocorticoid corticosteroids stabilize or improve muscle strength and walking in boys with DMD.METHODSThe meta-analysis of the results from four randomised controlled trials with altogether 249 participants showed that glucocorticoid corticosteroids improved muscle strength and function over six months. Improvements were seen in time taken to rise from the floor (Gowers' time), nine metres walking time, four-stair climbing time, ability to lift weights, leg function grade and forced vital capacity. One randomised controlled trial with altogether 28 participants showed that glucocorticoid corticosteroids stabilize muscle strength and function for up to two years. The most effective prednisolone regime appears to be 0.75 mg/kg/day, given in a daily dose regime. Not enough data were available to compare efficacy of prednisone with deflazacort. Adverse effects: Excessive weight gain, behavioural abnormalities, cushingoid appearance and excessive hair growth were all more common with glucocorticoid corticosteroids than placebo. Long-term adverse effects of glucocorticoid therapy could not be evaluated because of the short-term duration of the randomised studies.Non-randomised studies: A number of non-randomised studies with important efficacy and adverse effects data are tabulated and discussed.RESULTSCONCLUSIONSThere is evidence from randomised controlled studies that glucocorticoid corticosteroid therapy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy improves muscle strength and function in the short-term (six months to two years). The most effective prednisolone regime appears to be 0.75 mg/kg/day, given daily. In the short term, adverse effects were significantly more common but not clinically severe. Long-term benefits and hazards of glucocorticoid treatment cannot be evaluated from the currently published randomised studies. Non-randomised studies support the conclusions of functional benefits but also identify clinically significant adverse effects of long-term treatment. These benefits and adverse effects have implications for future research studies and clinical practice.

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