Common steroid treatment could harm patients with pneumonia, research shows

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Prednisolone, a steroid commonly co-prescribed as a treatment for pneumonia, has little benefit and may actually worsen patient outcomes, researchers say.

In a study of pneumonia patients with an average age of 63, researchers discovered that 19.2% of the patients being treated with prednisolone saw their symptoms return within three days of hospitalization, compared with 6.4% of patients in the placebo group. When seven-day and 30-day clinical cures were considered, the group receiving steroids and the group receiving a placebo showed little difference in cure rates, though the placebo group did appear to have slightly improved outcomes overall, the research showed.

Although overall there was little demonstrated benefit to adding prednisolone to a pneumonia treatment regimen, researchers say the drug could have some benefits in cases of extreme illness, and treatments must be determined for each patient individually. The report appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.