Data abstracted retrospectively from the charts at 11,359 clinic visits for 310 patients with SLE to the Montreal General Hospital were used to investigate the associations of recent corticosteroid dose and recent Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) score with 8 CHD risk factors (total serum cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein [HDL] cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, apolipoprotein B [Apo B], triglycerides, systolic blood pressure [BP], body mass index, and blood glucose) and the aggregate estimate of 2-year CHD risk. Separate multivariable linear regression models estimated the mutually-adjusted effects of average daily corticosteroid dose and average SLEDAI score within the past year on the current level of each risk factor while adjusting for age, sex, cumulative damage score, disease duration, and, where appropriate, use of relevant medications.
Because of these side effects, doctors frequently choose safer medications, such as the 5-ASA drugs and antibiotics, as initial therapy. But there are a number of ways to reduce the risk of developing side effects. These include rapid but careful tapering off of steroids; alternate-day dosing; rectally applied corticosteroids; and rapidly metabolized corticosteroids such as budesonide (described above). To help prevent osteoporosis, many doctors routinely prescribe calcium supplements as well as multivitamins that contain vitamin D. Another option is the use of bisphosphonates, such as risedronate (Actonel®) and alendronate (Fosamax®). These compounds, which have been shown to help avert bone loss, are effective in treating and preventing steroid-induced osteoporosis.