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Independents' Day

Oral steroids diabetes risk

As many as 2 per cent of all cases of diabetes are caused by oral steroids, researchers estimate.

Their report warned the true figure could be higher because of errors misclassifying exposure, although inhaled, injected or topical steroids did not appear to increase risk.

Patients who took three or more oral steroid scripts were at a 36 per cent increased risk, according to the study, published in December's Diabetes Care. It looked at 2,467 diabetes cases and 5,294 matched controls, at 114 GP practices.

Study leader Dr Martin Gulliford, senior lecturer in public health medicine at King's College London, said: 'GPs may want to monitor patients more closely if they have risk factors for diabetes such as obesity, physical inactivity or a family history of diabetes.'

Dr Mike Thomas, a GP in Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, and hospital practitioner in respiratory medicine, said the research would help reinforce the risks associated with prescribing steroids.

'It's often not an easy decision, but most GPs would only start long-term steroids in very specific circumstances with due consideration of the risks.'

But Dr Anthony Brzezicki, a GP in south Croydon, London, and prescribing lead for Central Croydon PCT, said the research was 'completely unhelpful', and could wrongly discourage GPs from prescribing oral steroids.

'Studies like this may prevent people receiving drugs when they really need them. Even if this study is validated it will have no effect on treatment.'

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