Adverse events of standardized regimens of corticosteroids for prophylaxis and treatment of nerve function impairment in leprosy: results from the 'TRIPOD' trials

J. H. Richardus, Alison Anderson, R. P. Croft, Peter Gregory Nicholls, W. H. Van Brakel, William Cairns Stewart Smith, S. G. Withington

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Reactions in leprosy causing nerve function impairment (NFT) are increasingly treated with standardized regimens of corticosteroids, often under field conditions. Safety concerns led to an assessment of adverse events of corticosteroids, based on data of three trials studying prevention of NFT (the TRIPOD study). A multicentre, randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial was conducted in leprosy control programmes in Nepal and Bangladesh. Treatment was with prednisolone according to fixed schedules for 16 weeks, starting in one trial with 20 mg/day (prophylactic regimen: total dosage 1.96 g) and in the other two trials with 40 mg/day (therapeutic regimen: total dosage 2.52 g). Minor adverse events were defined as moon face, fungal infections, acne, and gastric pain requiring antacid. Major adverse events were defined as psychosis, peptic ulcer, glaucoma, cataract, diabetes and hypertension. Also, the occurrence of infected plantar, palmar, and corneal ulceration was monitored, together with occurrence of TB. Considering all three trials together, minor adverse events were observed in 130/815 patients (16%). Of these, 51/414 (12%) were in the placebo group and 79/401 (20%) in the prednisolone group. The relative risk for minor adverse events in the prednisolone group was 1.6 (P = 0.004). Adverse events with a significantly increased risk were acne, fungal infections and gastric pain. Major adverse events were observed in 15/815 patients (2%); 7/414 (2%) in the placebo group and 8/401 (2%) in the prednisolone group. No major adverse events had a significantly increased risk in the prednisolone arm of the trials. No cases of TB were observed in 300 patients who could be followed-up for 24 months. Standardized regimens of corticosteroids for both prophylaxis and treatment of reactions and NFI in leprosy under field conditions in, developing countries are safe when a standard pre-treatment examination is performed, treatment for minor conditions can be carried out by field staff, referral for specialized medical care is possible, and sufficient follow-up is done during and after treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-327
Number of pages8
JournalLeprosy Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003



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