Risk of fractures with inhaled corticosteroids in COPD: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and observational studies

01 Aug 2011


The effect of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) on fracture risk in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remains uncertain. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association between ICS and fractures in COPD.


MEDLINE, EMBASE, regulatory documents and company registries were searched up to August 2010. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of budesonide or fluticasone versus control treatment for COPD (≥24 weeks duration) and controlled observational studies reporting on fracture risk with ICS exposure vs no exposure in COPD were included. Peto OR meta-analysis was used for fracture risk from RCTs while ORs from observational studies were pooled using the fixed effect inverse variance method. Dose-response analysis was conducted using variance-weighted least squares regression in the observational studies. Heterogeneity was assessed using the I(2) statistic.


Sixteen RCTs (14 fluticasone, 2 budesonide) with 17,513 participants, and seven observational studies (n=69,000 participants) were included in the meta-analysis. ICSs were associated with a significantly increased risk of fractures (Peto OR 1.27; 95% CI 1.01 to 1.58; p=0.04; I(2)=0%) in the RCTs. In the observational studies, ICS exposure was associated with a significantly increased risk of fractures (OR 1.21; 95% CI 1.12 to 1.32; p<0.001; I(2)=37%), with each 500 μg increase in beclomethasone dose equivalents associated with a 9% increased risk of fractures, OR 1.09 (95% CI 1.06 to 1.12; p<0.001).


Among patients with COPD, long-term exposure to fluticasone and budesonide is consistently associated with a modest but statistically significant increased likelihood of fractures.

Resource information

Type of resource
Peer-reviewed article
Loke YK, Cavallazzi R, Singh S