Corticosteroid Tapering Regimens in Rheumatic Disease: A Systematic Review

Ashley M. Campbell, Jennifer R. Martin, Brian L. Erstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background/Objective Corticosteroids have long been used to effectively treat rheumatic disorders, but adverse effects associated with extended-duration regimens generate disagreement among clinicians regarding optimal tapering strategies. The objective of this systematic review was to assess clinical outcomes of differing tapering regimens after corticosteroid monotherapy in adults with rheumatic disorders. Methods A systematic review of Medline/PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts, Web of Science, Scopus, Global Index Medicus, American College of Rheumatology, gray literature, and reference lists up to June 27, 2018, was conducted by 2 authors. Randomized controlled trials, case-control studies, and prospective observational studies comparing at least 2 tapering strategies of medium-to high-dose (>7.5 mg but ≤100 mg oral prednisone equivalent daily), extended-duration (≥10 days) corticosteroids were included if they reported at least 1 efficacy and 1 adverse effect parameter. Results Two studies met criteria for the review, which included 62 patients. One study examined a prednisolone versus a modified release prednisone taper for giant cell arteritis and suggested 80% (n = 4) and 85.7% (n = 6) remission rates, respectively, at 26 weeks. The other study examined a methylprednisolone versus a prednisone taper for polymyalgia rheumatica and reported 100% and 89% remission rates, respectively, at 26 weeks. Adverse effects reported between the 2 studies included sleep, hyperglycemia, infection, and fractures. However, the studies were not powered to detect differences in these outcomes. Conclusions There is no high-level evidence to guide tapering until discontinuation after extended courses of medium-to high-dose treatment regimens, as current guidelines rely heavily on expert opinion and small case series with a trial-and-error approach. This review supports the need for additional research to shift tapering recommendations to a more evidence-based practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-47
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Rheumatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • corticosteroids
  • giant cell arteritis
  • polymyalgia rheumatica
  • rheumatic diseases
  • taper

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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