Treating children who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) with the oral steroid prednisone is probably a good idea say researchers despite the side effects of the drug . Most patients with this form of muscular dystrophy die in their late teens or early 20s from respiratory failure or heart problems. Despite the beneficial effects of the drug, however, many have questioned whether its side effects, which can range from weight gain to behavioral changes, are worth the benefits seen in muscle force.
A recent study done , involved 17 children between ages 5 and 8 with the disease who were randomly assigned to receive six months of treatment with prednisone and another six months of treatment with a placebo.
Results of the study have shown that the drug helps maintain muscle function in children with DMD and it also makes it easier for them to climb and run. Prednisone positively impacted muscle force in patients with the disease, which is characterized by a progressive weakness in muscles. Compared to the placebo period, patients were better able to climb four stairs and run nine meters when they were on the active drug. Ten out of the 16 patients suffered side effects from the drug, but none of the patients dropped out of the study due to these effects, and researchers found no difference in quality of life measures among the kids during the two study periods.
Thus researchers recommend short-term prednisone treatment to preserve motor function in ambulant patients with DMD.