Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who use inhaled corticosteroids to improve breathing for more than six months have a 27 percent increased risk of bone fractures.
Because the research subjects were mostly men age 60 and older, the findings raise perhaps more troubling questions about the medication's effects on women with COPD, a group already at a significantly higher risk than men for fractures.
"There are millions of COPD patients who use long-term inhaled corticosteroids in the United States and millions more across the world," Sonal Singh, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the senior author of the study, said.
"The number of people who are getting fractures because of these medications is quite large," Singh said.
The inhaled corticosteroids evaluated were fluticasone, sold in combination with salmeterol as Advair, and budesonide, sold in combination with formoterol as Symbicort.
The study has been published online in the journal Thorax.