Steroid Preparations

Glucocorticoids are available in a wide range of preparations, so that they can be administered parenterally, orally, topically, or by inhalation. Obviously the oral route is preferred for prolonged therapy. However, parenteral administration is required in certain circumstances. Intramuscular injection of a water-soluble ester (phosphate or succinate) formed by esterification of the C21 steroid alcohol produces peak plasma steroid levels within 1 hour. Such preparations are useful in emergencies. By contrast, acetate and tertiary butylacetate esters must be injected locally as suspensions and are slowly absorbed from the injection site, which prolongs their effectiveness to approximately 8 hours.

Topical preparations usually contain relatively insoluble steroids, such as clobetasol propionate, triamcin-olone acetonide, or triamcinolone diacetate. Side effects of this mode of drug application are usually milder and more transient than those seen after systemically administered steroids. However, potent topical cortico-steroids, such as clobetasol propionate (Temovate), can suppress adrenal function when used in large amounts for a long time, especially when the skin surface is denuded or when occlusive dressings are employed. Since the high potency topical preparations carry a higher risk of local side effects, their use should be held in reserve.

Inhaled glucocorticoid preparations, such as be-clomethasone dipropionate and betamethasone valer-ate, provide an effective alternative to systemic steroids in the treatment of chronic asthma, with lesser side effects than oral or parenteral glucocorticoids (see Chapter 39). In fact, inhaled glucocorticoids have become a mainstay of asthma therapy. Inhalation delivers the agent directly to the target site in relatively low doses, with the potential for more frequent administration. Moreover, inhaled glucocorticoids are metabolized in the lung before they are absorbed, which reduces their systemic effects. However, even modest doses of

TABLE 60.1 General Classification of Glucocorticoids
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