Measuring the risks and costs of steroid use in individuals with systemic lupus erythematosus


Study Title: Quantifying the risk and economic burden of steroid-related damage in SLE: the SLICC Inception Cohort Study

Principal Investigator:             Professor Ian N Bruce MD FRCP, Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, University of Manchester

Study Start Date:  2015 / Study End Date:  Ongoing

Why do this research?

Steroids are effective and low cost medications in the treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE).  However, their use is likely to contribute over time to major additional long term health problems in patients with SLE. Conditions such as cataracts, degeneration of bone matter and heart disease can be caused by long term steroid use. These health issues often require additional medical and/or surgical processes which can add major costs to the management of SLE patients.

This study is investigating how much of later occurring long term damage can be credited to steroid use in the treatment of SLE patients.  The severity of this risk across all dosage levels of steroids is being measured to better understand what constitutes a “safe” steroid dose.  Currently there is no agreed upon “safe” steroid dose.  This study is also investigating the medical costs related to managing long term health problems as part of overall SLE management and will allow a more accurate assessment of the healthcare burden in managing SLE.

What will be done?

  1. Develop an agreed upon classification of long term damage likely associated with steroid use in SLE patients.
  2. Authenticate this classification by testing it on an existing international SLE patient research population.
  3. Track the dose and time of exposure to steroids against the development of different kinds of long term damage in SLE patients.
  4. Establish what constitutes a “safe” dose of steroids for treating SLE patients.
  5. Track the health-care costs of damage over time in SLE patients.
  6. Develop a model for the health-care costs related to steroid use in SLE patients.

Who is involved? 

  • Participants in the study were recruited from the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) Inception Cohort. This is an international lupus research study which recruited 1837 volunteers between 2000 and 2011. All participants were recruited within 18 months of being diagnosed with SLE.


Members of the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) Working Group (Drs. Ann Clarke, John G Hanly, Murray B Urowitz and Sue Manzi) on behalf of SLICC


Research Staff:

Lisa Fougere

Clinical Research Manager, Queen Elizabeth II Health Science Centre

Nicole Anderson HBSc CCRP

Lupus Program Research Manager, The Centre for Prognosis Studies in the Rheumatic Diseases Toronto Western Hospital

Yvan St. Pierre MSc.

Health Economist, McGill University

Rick Chin MSc.

Statistical Associate, University of Calgary

Whitney Steber, BSc.

Clinical Research Manager, University of Calgary

Kyla Kastner

Research Coordinator, University of Calgary

Chynace Lambalgen, BA.

Research Coordinator, University of Calgary


Funding Agency:  Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics


How do people get involved?

Recruitment is now completed for this study.