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Warning on long-term oral steroids

Prolonged use of oral steroids significantly increases mortality in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a new study warns.

Use of oral steroids for 10 years or more increased mortality by 69 per cent compared with untreated patients, researchers found.

An increase in infections and intestinal perforations due to amyloidosis seemed to be mostly responsible for the rise in mortality, reported in the Journal of Rheumatology.

Researchers at the University of Tampere Hospital in Finland analysed 604 patients with rheumatoid arthritis over an 11-year period, during which 160 patients died – 45 per cent of whom had been on them for more than 10 years.

Dr Iain Gilchrist, treasurer of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society, said the findings supported widespread misgivings over the effects of long-term steroid treatment. He said: 'Treating anyone with steroids for 10 years leaves them open to all sorts of complications.'

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