Scientific Review Finds Asthma Drugs Suppress Growth in Children

According to a study review published online in July, 2014, by The Cochrane Library, certain asthma controller medication may suppress children’s growth. According to a statement released by the authors, “Corticosteroid drugs that are given by inhalers to children with asthma may suppress their growth, evidence suggests. Two new systematic reviews published in The Cochrane Library focus on the effects of inhaled corticosteroid drugs (ICS) on growth rates. The authors found children’s growth slowed in the first year of treatment, although the effects were [minimized] by using lower doses.”

In the first review, “’The evidence we reviewed suggests that children treated daily with inhaled corticosteroids may grow approximately half a centimetre less during the first year of treatment,’ said lead author of the review, Linjie Zhang, who is based at the Faculty of Medicine at the Federal University of Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Brazil. ‘But this effect is less pronounced in subsequent years, is not cumulative, and seems minor compared to the known benefits of the drugs for controlling asthma and ensuring full lung growth.’” In the second review, they found “using lower doses of the inhaled corticosteroids, by about one puff per day, improved growth by a quarter of a centimetre at one year.”

The researchers concluded that further trials are needed in order to understand variation across drugs and, more “long-term trials and trials comparing different doses are also needed, particularly in children with more severe asthma requiring higher doses of inhaled corticosteroids, the researchers conclude. ‘Only 14% of the trials we looked at monitored growth in a systematic way for over a year. This is a matter of major concern given the importance of this topic,’ said Francine Ducharme, one of the authors of both reviews and senior author of the second review, based at the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Montreal in Montreal, Canada. ‘We recommend that the minimal effective dose be used in children with asthma until further data on doses becomes available. Growth should be carefully documented in all children treated with inhaled corticosteroids, as well in all future trials testing inhaled corticosteroids in children.’”

The press release is online, as is the study abstract and a Reuters health report.