Inhaled glucocorticoids (also called inhaled corticosteroids or ICS) have fewer and less severe adverse effects than orally-administered glucocorticoids, and they are widely used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [ 1 ]. However, there are concerns about the systemic effects of ICS, particularly as they are likely to be used over long periods of time, in infants, children, and older adults [ 2,3 ]. The safety of ICS has been extensively investigated since their introduction for the treatment of asthma 30 years ago [ 4-9 ].
Because of these side effects, doctors frequently choose safer medications, such as the 5-ASA drugs and antibiotics, as initial therapy. But there are a number of ways to reduce the risk of developing side effects. These include rapid but careful tapering off of steroids; alternate-day dosing; rectally applied corticosteroids; and rapidly metabolized corticosteroids such as budesonide (described above). To help prevent osteoporosis, many doctors routinely prescribe calcium supplements as well as multivitamins that contain vitamin D. Another option is the use of bisphosphonates, such as risedronate (Actonel®) and alendronate (Fosamax®). These compounds, which have been shown to help avert bone loss, are effective in treating and preventing steroid-induced osteoporosis.
Glucocorticoids are potent anti-inflammatories, regardless of the inflammation's cause; their primary anti-inflammatory mechanism is lipocortin-1 (annexin-1) synthesis. Lipocortin-1 both suppresses phospholipase A2 , thereby blocking eicosanoid production, and inhibits various leukocyte inflammatory events ( epithelial adhesion , emigration , chemotaxis , phagocytosis , respiratory burst , etc.). In other words, glucocorticoids not only suppress immune response, but also inhibit the two main products of inflammation, prostaglandins and leukotrienes . They inhibit prostaglandin synthesis at the level of phospholipase A2 as well as at the level of cyclooxygenase /PGE isomerase (COX-1 and COX-2),  the latter effect being much like that of NSAIDs , potentiating the anti-inflammatory effect.