Serum Prednisolone Levels as a Marker of Oral Corticosteroid Adherence in Severe Asthma

J. Michael Ramsahai; Emily King; Robert Niven; Gael Tavernier; Peter A. B. Wark; Jodie L. Simpson


BMC Pulm Med. 2020;20(228) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Severe asthma is a complex heterogeneous disease typically requiring advanced therapies. Underlying the treatment of all asthma, however, is the consistent recommendation across international guidelines to ensure that adherence to therapy is adequate. Currently, there is no consensus on an objective marker of adherence.

Methods: We performed a prospective observational study of 17 participants taking oral prednisolone using serum prednisolone levels as a marker of adherence, and sputum eosinophilia as a marker of control of type 2 airway inflammation. Based on these biomarkers, we classified participants into a non-adherent and an adherent cohort, and further stratified by the presence of ongoing sputum eosinophilia.

Results: We identified 3 non-adherent participants and 14 who were adherent, based on their serum prednisolone levels. Stratification using sputum eosinophil counts identified one participant as having ongoing sputum eosinophilia in the setting of non-adherence, while six were identified as steroid resistant with ongoing sputum eosinophilia despite adherence to oral prednisolone therapy.

Conclusion: Serum prednisolone can be used an objective marker of adherence in those patients with severe asthma taking daily oral prednisolone. In combination with sputum eosinophil counts, a steroid resistant cohort can be distinguished from one with ongoing inflammation in the setting of non-adherence. This information can then be used by clinicians to differentiate the optimal next steps for treatment in these specific populations.

Trial registration: Participants were recruited as part of the Markers of Inflammation in the Management of Severe Asthma (MIMOSA) study, trial registration ACTRN12616001015437, 02 August 2016.