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Can inhaled corticosteroids alleviate early symptoms of COVID-19?

November 4, 2021

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Despite high hopes, a new pan-Canadian study published this week in The BMJ suggests that ciclesonide — an inhaled and nasal steroid drug commonly used for asthma and rhinitis — won’t be the treatment to change the course of the pandemic.

The results of this first placebo controlled trial of inhaled steroids for COVID-19, led by a team of researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal, in collaboration with scientists from Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, show that inhaled corticosteroids are no better than placebo at helping young healthy people with COVID-19 and respiratory symptoms feel better sooner.

“The CONTAIN study shows why it is so important to conduct rigorous, placebo-controlled studies to determine whether a treatment truly confers benefit,” says Dr. Nick Daneman, a clinician-scientist and infectious diseases specialist at Sunnybrook who was involved in the study. Another infectious diseases specialist at Sunnybrook, Dr. Adrienne Chan, also contributed to the study.

“We have followed nearly 10,000 patients in our COVIDEO outpatient program since early 2020 and have avoided use of unproven therapies. Ciclesonide is a safe medication which had theoretic reasons why it might speed recovery from COVID, so we were excited to offer this treatment to our patients within the structure of the trial. In the end, it turns out that this treatment most likely does not impact the course of COVID,” Dr. Daneman says.

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Sunnybrook media contact:

Sybil Millar
Communications Advisor
sybil.millar@sunnybrook.ca