When should I consider prophylaxis for Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in my patient on prednisone?

It is generally recommended that patients on ≥20 mg of daily prednisone (or its equivalent) for ≥1 month be considered for PCP prophylaxis. 1

Couple of studies in 1990s helped define the dose and duration of corticosteroids (CS) that should prompt PCP prophylaxis. A Mayo Clinic study of patients without AIDS but PCP found median daily CS dose of 30 mg of prednisone or equivalent, with 25% of patients receiving as little as 16 mg of prednisone daily among patients with PCP.The median duration of CS therapy before PCP was 12 weeks. A similar study found a mean CS dose of 33 mg of prednisone or equivalent with mean duration of 7 months (range 1-154 months) among patients with PCP. 3

A 2018 retrospective study4  of patients with rheumatic diseases receiving prolonged high-dose CS therapy (≥30 mg prednisone for ≥4 weeks) found that PCP prophylaxis with trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/STX) resulted in 93% reduction in the incidence of PCP with an overall number needed to treat (NNT) of 52. It was suggested that PCP prophylaxis could be discontinued in patients receiving < 15 mg of prednisone daily.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that TMP/STX may be given either as double-strength 3x/week or single-strength daily? 5,6



1. Limper AH, Knox KS, Sarosi SA, et al. An official American Thoracic Society statement: Treatment of fungal infections in adult pulmonary and critical care patients. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2011;183:96-128. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21193785

2. Yale SH, Limper AH. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in patients without acquired immunodeficiency syndrome: associated illness and prior corticosteroid therapy. Mayo Clin Proc 1996;71:5-13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025619611649148

3. Arend SM, Kroon FP, van’t Wout JW. Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in patients without AIDS, 1980 through 1993: An analysis of 78 cases. Arch Intern Med 1995;155:2436-2441. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7503602

4. Park JW, Curtis JR, Moon J, et al. Prophylactic effect of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole for Pneumocystis pneumonia in patients with rheumatic diseases exposed to prolonged high-dose glucocorticoieds. Ann Rheum Dis 2018;77:664-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29092853

5. Anevlavis S, Kaltsas K, Bouros D. Prophylaxis for pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in non-HIV infected patients. PNEUMON 2012;25, October-December.http://www.pneumon.org/assets/files/789/file483_273.pdf

6. Stern A, Green H, Paul M, Leibovici L. Prophylaxis for pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in non-HIV immunocompromised patients (Review). Cochrane data of Systematic Reviews 2014, issue 10. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005590.pub3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25269391

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When should I consider prophylaxis for Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in my patient on prednisone?

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