New Advances in Hydrocortisone Replacement Therapy
Cortisol is essential to life, and is elevated in the morning and decreased at night while being a crucial part of the circadian rhythm. When circadian rhythm (cortisol release) is disrupted, that is associated with increased risk of mortality, sleep disturbances, increased bone turnover, worsening of cardiovascular risk factors, impaired physiological well being, and overall poorer health-related quality of life.
Cortisol has one of the most distinct and fascinating circadian rhythms in human physiology. This is regulated by the central clock located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. It has been suggested that cortisol acts as a secondary messenger between central and peripheral clocks, hence its importance in the synchronization of body circadian rhythms. Conventional immediate-release hydrocortisone, either at twice- or thrice-daily doses, is not capable of replicating physiological cortisol circadian rhythm and patients with adrenal insufficiency or congenital adrenal hyperplasia still suffer from a poor quality of life and increased mortality. Novel treatments for replacement therapy are therefore essential. Proof-of-concept studies using hydrocortisone infusions suggest that the circadian delivery of hydrocortisone may improve biochemical control and life quality in patients lacking cortisol with an impaired cortisol rhythm. Recently oral formulations of modified-release hydrocortisone are being developed and it has been shown that it is possible to replicate cortisol circadian rhythm and also achieve better control of morning androgen levels. These new drug therapies are promising and potentially offer a more effective treatment with less adverse effects. Definite improvements clearly need to be established in future clinical trials.