In January 2008, German researchers at the Charite University of Medicine in Berlin reported finding a modified-release form of the steroid prednisone works better at reducing morning joint stiffness — than the standard, immediate-release version — in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Their findings were published in the Jan. 19 issue of The Lancet.

Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid that is particularly effective as an immunosuppressant. It is also used in treatment for patients with abnormally low corticosteroid levels, including lack of cortisol and aldosterone.

For this study, 288 people with active RA were recruited; half received a standard dose of normal prednisone upon waking and the other half took the modified-release prednisone at bedtime. The modified-release tablets dispensed prednisone around four hours after ingestion.

The patients were instructed to keep daily diaries about their joint pain during the 12-week study. In those diaries, patients reported less morning joint stiffness within two weeks of starting to take the new prednisone pill.

After the 12-weeks of treatment, patients taking the modified-release version experienced an average of 44 minutes less morning stiffness per day than at the start of the study, which was 29.2 minutes less than those who took the standard version. In addition, both versions have nearly identical total drug exposure and maximum concentration values, along with identical safety profiles.

In other words, the modified-release version has no more complications or side effects than the normal version.

The team described the findings as clearly relevant, but admit longer studies are needed to see if the new prednisone pill maintains its effectiveness beyond three months.

Article References
New Twist on Prednisone for RA, site accessed on 01/29/08