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 found that a median daily CS dose of 30 mg of prednisone or equivalent—with 25% of patients receiving as little as 16 mg of prednisone daily— was associated 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 without AIDS. 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

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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


Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Mercy Hospital-St. Louis or its affiliate healthcare centers, Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School or its affiliated institutions. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!



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

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