Prednisone – An Immunosuppressant

Prednisone, itp, ITP - low platelet count, low Platelets, ITP disease, immune system disease, itp blood, immune thrombocytopenia, itp,

There is a particularly hilarious episode of the Television Series (Smash Season 1 Episode 6, Chemistry) where one of the main characters is prescribed Prednisone to treat a throat inflammation.  She recovers in record time and has the energy and enthusiasm to return the next day to the stage.

‘She is probably on Prednisone – that drug is a miracle…If you don’t kind the mood swings, insomnia, hair growth and hallucinations and weight gain.

Yes, she can certainly still sing, but really the young girl goes a bit mad.

I love this episode.  Not only does it highlight the side effects and problems with taking steriods as a short term, reactionary solution, it also brings to light the relaxed and quite scarey attitude that most people have towards a very harsh and damaging drug.

‘First dose six pills – I’m having cold sweats, head aches since like four in the morning and I just feel so panicky.  I’m not in good shape.’

Prednisone is an Anti Inflammatory Drug

Prednisone is particularly effective as an immunosuppressant, and affects virtually all of the immune system. It can, therefore, be used in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases (such as severe asthma, severe allergies, severe poison ivy dermatitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, Bell’s Palsy, Crohn’s disease, pemphigus and sarcoidosis), various kidney diseases including nephrotic syndrome, and to prevent and treat rejection in organ transplantation.

Intravenous application may be employed for cerebral inflammation, as in the period attacks caused by multiple sclerosis.

Furthermore, the pharmaceutical industry uses prednisone tablets for the calibration of dissolution testing equipment according to the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Discovering Prednisone

Prednisone, itp, ITP - low platelet count, low Platelets, ITP disease, immune system disease, itp blood, immune thrombocytopenia, itp,  The chemical Prednisone was discovered by Arthur Nobile in the early 1950’s.  Arthur Noble was an American microbiologist how is best known for his isolation and reproduction of the steroids prednisone and prednisolone – It is his most natable achievement in his career.

The first commercially feasible synthesis of prednisone was carried out in 1955 in the laboratories of Schering Corporation, which later became Schering-Plough Corporation, by Arthur Nobile and coworkers.  They discovered that cortisone could be microbiologically oxidized to prednisone by the bacterium Corynebacterium simplex. The same process was used to prepare prednisolone from hydrocortisone.

The enhanced adrenocorticoid activity of these compounds over cortisone and hydrocortisone was demonstrated in mice.

Prednisone and prednisolone were introduced in 1955 by Schering and Upjohn, under the brand names Meticorten and Delta-Cortef, respectively.  These prescription medicines are now available from a number of manufacturers as generic drugs.

Side Effects of Prednisone

This medicine may also reduce the sex drive. Prednisone has also been used in the treatment of migraine headaches and cluster headaches.  Prednisone also may often cause rapid weight gain in those who are taking it.  This list is not meant t scare you, it should be used to remind you of possible side effects to look for when taking Prednisone.  

To read more about Prednisone go to Mediline Plus.

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • inappropriate happiness
  • extreme changes in mood
  • changes in personality
  • bulging eyes
  • acne
  • thin, fragile skin
  • red or purple blotches or lines under the skin
  • slowed healing of cuts and bruises
  • increased hair growth
  • changes in the way fat is spread around the body
  • extreme tiredness
  • weak muscles
  • irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • decreased sexual desire
  • heartburn
  • increased sweating

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • vision problems
  • eye pain, redness, or tearing
  • sore throat, fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection
  • seizures
  • depression
  • loss of contact with reality
  • confusion
  • muscle twitching or tightening
  • shaking of the hands that you cannot control
  • numbness, burning, or tingling in the face, arms, legs, feet, or hands
  • upset stomach
  • vomiting
  • lightheadedness
  • irregular heartbeat
  • sudden weight gain
  • shortness of breath, especially during the night
  • dry, hacking cough
  • swelling or pain in the stomach
  • swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • rash
  • hives
  • itching



Adrenal suppression occurs if prednisone is taken for longer than 7 days.  For this reason, prednisone should not be stopped abruptly if taken for longer than seven days; rather the dosage must be reduced slowly. This reduction may be over a few days if the course of prednisone was short, but may take weeks or months if the patient had been on long-term treatment. Abrupt withdrawal may lead to an Addisonian crisis, which may be life-threatening. For those on chronic therapy, alternate-day dosing may preserve adrenal function, thereby reducing side-effects (see “Dosing Considerations”).

Tapering off Prednisone

One of the most common symptoms of prednisone withdrawal is a feeling of weakness or severe fatigue. This is because the immune system is weakened. It may also result in body aches and a low grade fever as though a cold were coming on. Joint pain is also common. Also on the list of prednisone withdrawal side effects is depression. This is because withdrawal from the drug causes hormonal changes in the body.

Please note that the longer you are on prednisone, the worse you can expect the prednisone withdrawal symptoms to be should you cease taking the medication suddenly. 

More Information about taking Prednisone.

Mediline Plus – Prednisone Fact Sheet

Platelet Disorder Support Association – Corticosteriods

Australian Rheumatology Download for Prednisone & Prednisolone


by Meg

Meghan Brewster is a writer and blogger. She is an ITP patient and launched ITP&Me in 2011. She is a coffee lover and a try hard dancer. @meghan_brewster

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