Study objective: To evaluate the influence of oral anabolic steroids on body mass index (BMI), lean body mass, anthropometric measures, respiratory muscle strength, and functional exercise capacity among subjects with COPD.
Design: Prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind study.
Setting: Pulmonary rehabilitation program.
Participants: Twenty-three undernourished male COPD patients in whom BMI was below 20 kg/m2 and the maximal inspiratory pressure (PImax) was below 60% of the predicted value.
Intervention: The study group received 250 mg of testosterone IM at baseline and 12 mg of oral stanozolol a day for 27 weeks, during which time the control group received placebo. Both groups participated in inspiratory muscle exercises during weeks 9 to 27 and cycle ergometer exercises during weeks 18 to 27.
Measurements and results: Seventeen of 23 subjects completed the study. Weight increased in nine of 10 subjects who received anabolic steroids (mean, +1.8±0.5 kg; p<0.05), whereas the control group lost weight (−0.4±0.2 kg). The study group's increase in BMI differed significantly from that of the control group from weeks 3 to 27 (p<0.05). Lean body mass increased in the study group at weeks 9 and 18 (p<0.05). Arm muscle circumference and thigh circumference also differed between groups (p<0.05). Changes in PImax (study group, 41%; control group, 20%) were not statistically significant. No changes in the 6-min walk distance or in maximal exercise capacity were identified in either group.
Conclusion: The administration of oral anabolic steroids for 27 weeks to malnourished male subjects with COPD was free of clinical or biochemical side effects. It was associated with increases in BMI, lean body mass, and anthropometric measures of arm and thigh circumference, with no significant changes in endurance exercise capacity.