Children who grew up on Pulmicort end up a half inch smaller as adults.
(Jakob Montrasio 孟亚柯/Flickr)
It turns out that the stunted growth associated with the use of budesonide, a long-term medication commonly used to control childhood asthma, is likely permanent. That's according to a study presented yesterday at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Vienna and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The authors, several of whom received consulting fees from drug companies, followed 943 children from the ages of 5 to 13 who were randomly treated with budesonide, nedocromil -- another asthma drug that was discontinued in the U.S. in 2008 -- or a placebo for a period of 4 to 6 years. A height deficit was observed with 1 to 2 years after children began taking budesonide, and by the age of 25, when they would be expected to have reached their full adult height, these same children were about half an inch shorter, on average, than the other participants in the study.
Known in the U.S. by the brand name Pulimicort, the glucocorticoid (steroid) is widely prescribed as a preventative medication. The key to its effectiveness is continuous use: taken twice daily through an inhaler, it reduces inflammation in the lungs and thus reduces the number and severity of asthma attacks. It is not used to treat an attack that is already underway.