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Prednisone As an Anti-Asthma Drug

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Prednisone as a corticosteroid has many uses. Some people regard it as an excellent drug of choice for asthma. They could be right. Read on.

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the bronchial tubes that cause swelling and narrowing of the airways. With this, asthma interferes with the normal movement of air in and out of the lungs.

Common symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, especially with too much exertion or exercise; Wheezing - a whistling or hissing sound when breathing out; Coughing, which may be lasting and is usually worse at night and early in the morning; and chest tightness that may happen with or without the previous symptoms mentioned.

Asthma symptoms are provoked by many agents. These agents can be allergens or irritants. While allergens are more specific like pollens, dust mites and molds, irritants are non- specific. These irritants can be respiratory infections caused by viral colds or sinusitis; or drugs like aspirin and other NSAIDS that can trigger asthma. Hormonal factors like premenstrual syndrome and emotional factors can also cause asthma.

Common Medications

Bronchodilators such as salbutamol, theophylline and terbutaline are popular drugs for asthma. These medications work by relaxing the muscles that tightens the airways. Bronchodilators also help eliminate mucous. By clearing the airways open, the mucous can be coughed off more easily.

Compared to tablets or oral liquid forms, inhaled medications like salbutamol (ventolin) nebules and metered dose inhalers like ipratropium (Atrovent, Berodual), Combivent and tiotropium (Spiriva) are better alternatives. These types have fewer side effects since these act directly on the airway surface and airway muscles where the asthma problems originate. With this, absorption of inhaled drugs into the rest of the body is at the least.

However, inhaled medications, particularly the metered forms can be costly that most asthmatic patients choose tablets over inhalations. Interestingly, they tend to use prednisone.

Prednisone facts

In drug directories, prednisone is categorized as an adrenocorticosteroid hormone similar to betamethasone (Celestone, Betnelan), dexamethasone (Decilone, Drenex) methyprednisolone (Adrena, Depo-medrol), prednisolone (Optipred, Liquipred) triamcinolene (Kenacort) and hydrocortisone (Hydrosone Organon). These types are used as an immunosuppressant, anti-inflammatory and as an anti-allergic agent.

With prednisone, this drug is indicated for adrenocortical insufficiency, hematological, gastro-intestinal, neoplastic and nervous disorders. But usually, most people know prednisone’s use for skin and eye inflammation, as an adjunctive or support cure for rheumatic disorders and for respiratory disorders like asthma.

Image source

Depending on prednisone’s manufacturer, this drug can be available in 1, 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 20, 30 and 50 mg tablets and in 10 mg per 5ml 30ml and 60 suspensions.

Common brand names:

Drazone (Intel Healthcare), Orasone (Phoenix), Pred 5, (Prosel Pharma), Prolix (Pharma Nutria)

Special precautions and contraindications:

Prednisone can cause salt and fluid retention, individuals with hypertension and heart problems should consider taking this drug. Prednisone should also be used in precaution with pregnant, old people and those with kidney failure.

Prednisone is contraindicated in an individual currently under treatment with live vaccines. People with osteoporosis, psychoses conditions and tuberculosis should not use this drug. As a glucocorticoid, prednisone may increase the production of glucose therefore this won’t be beneficial for diabetic people. Prednisone also suppresses the body’s fighting process which makes it unfavorable for fungal and other infectious diseases. Finally, steroids can cause hemorrhage that it won’t be good for an individual with peptic ulcer.

Side effects:

Prednisone can result to edema, hypertension, amenorrhea, hyperhidrosis, mental disturbances, acute pancreatitis, aseptic osteonecrosis, muscle weakness, Cushingoid state, raised intraocular pressure, visual disturbances, local atrophy, increased appetite and growth retardation.

Drug interactions:

As a corticosteroid, the effectiveness of prednisone can be reduced by phenytoin, phenobarbital and rifampicin. On the contrary, prednisone can diminish the effects of diuretics (furosemide, spirinolactone), hypoglycemic or anti-diabetic agents, anti-cholinesterases (physostigmine, neostigmine) and salicylates (aspirin).

Prednisone as an anti-asthma drug

Not only that treatment with asthma cures focuses on easing asthma attacks when these occur or for preventing chronic symptoms mentioned above, asthma treatment also centers on controlling the inflammation around the airways.

Prednisone as a corticosteroid acts as an anti-inflammatory. It is usually indicated in severe asthma symptoms when unresponsive to bronchodilators. Prednisone reduces swelling and mucus production in the airways. With this, on going asthma attacks can also be prevented. However, prednisone is not used alone for asthma. This drug is usually indicated for support in severe symptoms of asthma. A physician usually indicates prednisone in combination with other bronchodilator and is used for a limited time only.

Image by the author

The above sample only applies for a quick relief when symptoms are really serious. Once, the aid has been achieved, the use of prednisone in the future may not be necessary. Prednisone use is really an option in cases of severe symptoms in seasonal or infrequent attacks of asthma. For long term asthma control, doctors prefer corticosteroids in inhalant forms but these are also used as adjuvants or support with other anti-asthma drugs.


Prednisone and other corticosteroids can relieve asthma faster but it is not the first choice for doctors. The habitual use of prednisone alone or in combination with other drugs for asthma tends lead to future problems commonly osteoporosis, growth retardation in children and cushingoid state. It is always best to consult a registered physician.

© Phoenix Montoya@ May 30, 2011


Wilson and Gisvold’s textbook of organic medicinal and pharmaceutical chemistry 9th edition

PPDr 5th edition

MIMS Philippines

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Phoenix Montoya

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