Gold may have a small impact on asthma for people dependent on corticosteroids, but adverse effects are serious and a lot of monitoring is needed.

Some people need to rely on corticosteroid drugs to control their asthma. Corticosteroids help reduce the inflammation (swelling) of the airways (passages to the lungs) associated with asthma. Long-term use of these drugs has serious adverse effects, so other ways to try and cut down on the need for corticosteroids are sometimes tried. Gold is used by people with some other kinds of inflammatory problems (such as rheumatoid arthritis). The review of trials found that people with asthma taking gold need careful monitoring as there are harmful effects, and it may only have a very small impact on asthma symptoms.

Authors' conclusions: 

The changes seen in these trials are small and probably of limited clinical significance. Given the side effects of gold and necessity for monitoring the use of gold as a steroid sparing agent in asthma cannot be recommended.

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Background: 

Patients with chronic severe asthma are often dependent on the long term prescription of oral corticosteroids. The use of steroids is associated with serious side effects. Physicians treating such patients continue to search for alternative therapies that reduce the need for chronic dosing with oral steroids. Gold compounds are immunosuppressive agents and have benefits in the treatment of a number of inflammatory disorders. They have therefore been identified as an potentially useful agents in the treatment of chronic severe asthma both in terms of possible efficacy and as steroid sparing agents.

Objectives: 

The objective of this review was to assess the effects of adding gold to oral steroids in the treatment of chronic steroid dependent asthmatics.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Airways Group Specialised Register of trials and reference lists of identified articles were searched. Searches were current as of September 2010.

Selection criteria: 

Randomised trials looking at the addition of gold compared to placebo in adult steroid dependent asthmatics.

Data collection and analysis: 

Trial quality was assessed and data extraction was carried out by two reviewers independently. Study authors were contacted for missing information.

Main results: 

Three trials fulfilled the criteria for inclusion in the review and a total of 376 patients were recruited into these studies. Data from 311 patients could be analysed. There was a small but significant treatment effect for gold in terms of steroid dose reduction (Peto Odds Ratio 0.51, 95% confidence intervals 0.31,0.83). No meta-analysis could be done for measures of lung function although overall there were few changes suggesting a positive benefit for gold. There were trends suggestive of adverse effects but no significant changes for gold treated patients with respect to proteinuria (Peto Odds Ratio 1.4, 95% confidence intervals 0.6, 3.3) dermatitis/eczema Peto Odds Ratio 2.1, 95% confidence intervals 0.9, 4.7). Update searches carried out in September 2007 and 2010 did not yield any new studies.

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