Anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid drugs: reflections after 60 years
This review considers the problem of the serious concomitant side effects of powerful anti-inflammatory drugs modelled upon the principal human glucocorticoid hormone, cortisol. The very nature of the original bio-assays to validate their cortisol-like hormonal and anti-inflammatory activities ensured that pleiotropic toxins were selected for clinical studies.Other complicating factors have been (1) considerable reliance on bio-assays conducted in laboratory animals that primarily secrete corticosterone, not cortisol, as their principal anti-inflammatory adrenal hormone; (2) some differences in the binding of xenobiotic cortisol analogues (vis a vis cortisol) to transport proteins, detoxifying enzymes and even some intra-cellular receptors; (3) the ''rogue'' properties of these hormonal xenobiotics, acting independently of-but still able to suppress-hormonal mechanisms regulating endogenous cortisol; and (4) problems of intrinsic/acquired ''steroid resistance'', diminishing their clinical efficacy, but not necessarily all their toxicities. The rather gloomy conclusion is that devising newdrugs to reproduce the effect ofmulti-potent hormones may be a recipe for disaster, in contexts other than simply remedying an endocrine deficiency. Promising new developments include ''designed'' combination therapies that allow some reduction in total steroid doses (and hopefully their side effects); sharpening strategies to limit the actual duration of steroid administration; and resurgent interest in searching for more selective analogues (both steroidal and non-steroid) with less harmful side effects. Some oversights and neglected areas of research are also considered.Overall, it now seems timely to engage in some drastic rethinking about (retaining?) these ''licensed toxins'' as fundamental therapies for chronic inflammation.
Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified