Effect of Inhaled Glucocorticoids in Childhood on Adult Height

H. William Kelly, Pharm.D., Alice L. Sternberg, Sc.M., Rachel Lescher, M.D., Anne L. Fuhlbrigge, M.D., Paul Williams, M.D., Robert S. Zeiger, M.D., Ph.D., Hengameh H. Raissy, Pharm.D., Mark L. Van Natta, M.H.S., James Tonascia, Ph.D., and Robert C. Strunk, M.D. for the CAMP Research Group

N Engl J Med 2012;  367:904-912September 6, 2012


The use of inhaled glucocorticoids for persistent asthma causes a temporary reduction in growth velocity in prepubertal children. The resulting decrease in attained height 1 to 4 years after the initiation of inhaled glucocorticoids is thought not to decrease attained adult height.


We measured adult height in 943 of 1041 participants (90.6%) in the Childhood Asthma Management Program; adult height was determined at a mean (±SD) age of 24.9±2.7 years. Starting at the age of 5 to 13 years, the participants had been randomly assigned to receive 400 μg of budesonide, 16 mg of nedocromil, or placebo daily for 4 to 6 years. We calculated differences in adult height for each active treatment group, as compared with placebo, using multiple linear regression with adjustment for demographic characteristics, asthma features, and height at trial entry.


Mean adult height was 1.2 cm lower (95% confidence interval [CI], −1.9 to −0.5) in the budesonide group than in the placebo group (P=0.001) and was 0.2 cm lower (95% CI, −0.9 to 0.5) in the nedocromil group than in the placebo group (P=0.61). A larger daily dose of inhaled glucocorticoid in the first 2 years was associated with a lower adult height (−0.1 cm for each microgram per kilogram of body weight) (P=0.007). The reduction in adult height in the budesonide group as compared with the placebo group was similar to that seen after 2 years of treatment (−1.3 cm; 95% CI, −1.7 to −0.9). During the first 2 years, decreased growth velocity in the budesonide group occurred primarily in prepubertal participants.


The initial decrease in attained height associated with the use of inhaled glucocorticoids in prepubertal children persisted as a reduction in adult height, although the decrease was not progressive or cumulative. (Funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center for Research Resources; CAMP ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00000575.)