Rheumatology International

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 569–577 | Cite as

Long-term glucocorticoid treatment in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica, giant cell arteritis, or both diseases: results from a national rheumatology database

  • Katinka Albrecht
  • Dörte Huscher
  • Frank Buttgereit
  • Martin Aringer
  • Guido Hoese
  • Wolfgang Ochs
  • Katja Thiele
  • Angela Zink
Cohort Studies on Comorbidities


The objective of this study was to evaluate glucocorticoid (GC) use in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), giant cell arteritis (GCA) or both diseases (PMR + GCA) under rheumatological care. Data from patients with PMR (n = 1420), GCA (n = 177) or PMR + GCA (n = 261) from the National Database of the German Collaborative Arthritis Centers were analyzed regarding GCs and related comorbidities (osteoporosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease), stratified by disease duration (DD). Longitudinal data were analyzed for all patients with a DD ≤ 2 years at database entry (n = 1397). Three-year data were available for 256 patients. Predictors of GC use ≥ 3 years were examined by logistic regression analyses. A total of 76% received GCs, and 19% (PMR) to 40% (GCA) received methotrexate. Median GC doses were 12.5 mg (PMR), 11.3 mg (GCA), and 20.0 mg/day (PMR + GCA) in a 0–6-month DD. Median GC doses ≤ 5 mg/day were reached at a 13–18-month DD in PMR patients and at a 19–24-month DD in GCA or PMR + GCA patients. In the multivariate analysis, baseline methotrexate (OR 2.03, [95% CI 1.27–3.24]), GCs > 10 mg/day (OR 1.65, [1.07–2.55]), higher disease activity (OR 1.12, [1.02–1.23]) (median 0.6 years DD), and female sex (OR 1.63 [1.09–2.43]) were predictive for GC therapy at ≥ 3 years. Of the examined comorbidities, only osteoporosis prevalence increased within 3 years. GC use for ≥ 3 years was reported in one-fourth of all the patients. A difficult-to-control disease activity within the first year was a good predictor of long-term GC need.


Polymyalgia rheumatica Giant cell arteritis Glucocorticoids Immunosuppressive agents Comorbidities 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions and the enthusiasm of all the participating patients and consultant rheumatologists who contributed data to the National Database. The authors would like to acknowledge the significant contributions of R. Alten (Berlin), M. Backhaus (Berlin), H. Burkhardt (Frankfurt/Main), S. Kleinert and J. Wendler (Erlangen), T. Eidner (Jena), K. Fischer (Greifswald), J. Henes (Tübingen), U. von Hinüber (Hildesheim), K. Karberg (Berlin), I. Kötter (Hamburg), A. Krause (Berlin), S. Späthling-Mestekemper (München), J. Richter (Düsseldorf), S. Wassenberg and R. Weier (Ratingen).

Author contributions

DH had full access to all data of this study and take responsibility for data integrity and accuracy of the analysis. KA, DH, FB and AZ: study concept and design. MA, GH, WO and KT: acquisition of the data. KA, DH, FB, MA and AZ: analysis and interpretation of the data. KA and DH: drafting the manuscript. All authors critically revised the manuscript for important intellectual content.

Compliance with ethical standards


The database is funded by unconditional grants from the German Collaborative Arthritis Centers and from a consortium of 11 pharmaceutical companies to the German Academy for Continuing Medical Education in Rheumatology. The principal investigators and their team had full academic freedom in the study design and conduct, data analysis and publication of the results.

Conflict of interest

M.A. is an investigator in a tocilizumab trial of GCA. F.B. reported receiving consultancy fees, honoraria and travel expenses from Horizon Pharma (formerly Nitec Pharma) and Mundipharma Int Ltd and grant support from Horizon Pharma. In addition, he serves as co-principal investigator and site investigator in a Mundipharma sponsored trial in PMR investigating the effects of MR prednisone. None of the other authors have conflicts of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Epidemiology UnitGerman Rheumatism Research Center, A Leibniz InstituteBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Rheumatology and Clinical ImmunologyCharité University HospitalBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Department of Rheumatology and Clinical ImmunologyTU DresdenDresdenGermany
  4. 4.Private Specialty Practice for RheumatologyStadthagenGermany
  5. 5.Private Specialty Practice for RheumatologyBayreuthGermany

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