Prednisone for rheumatoid arthritis: More research is needed

UCI Health expert calls for a long-term study on using the low-dose steroid to treat the autoimmune disease

August 22, 2023

IN THE NEWS: Although a new study found no link between the steroid prednisone and hypertension and only modest weight gain in people who have rheumatoid arthritis, a UCI expert says further study of additional side effects is needed.

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Dr. Farshid Bozorgnia, a UCI Health rheumatologist, told Healthline that despite the findings, drugs like prednisone still should be prescribed judiciously considering other short- and long-term side effects, including osteoporosis, glaucoma and cataracts. Bozorgnia was not involved with the study.

Borzorgnia noted that the study only looked at the steroid’s use over a 24-month period, saying that further research is needed into how weight and blood-pressure changes play out over time. This is especially important given the average age of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and their life expectancy once they are diagnosed.

“Usually when you have patients with RA, they are being diagnosed at age 40 and 50 and their life expectancy is 20 to 30 years. We have to see how much effect this drug has on long-term weight gain.”

Bozorgnia is a board-certified UCI Health rheumatologist and an assistant professor of medicine at the UCI School of Medicine. He can be reached at 714-456-7720.

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