We report a case of subtle Cushing syndrome in a Pakistani man who self-treated his asthma with a potent long-acting oral glucocorticoid (betamethasone disodium phosphate [Bentelan]) for more than 30 years. He presented with cushingoid features, insulin resistance, and refractory hypertension. Laboratory evaluation revealed undetectable cortisol levels and suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The patient obtained the drug from his country of origin, with no understanding of the potential adverse effects imposed by long-term use of steroids. He is now being slowly weaned off the drug. The apparent widespread availability, access, and abuse of such potent steroids are a cause of concern in developing countries. We suggest that physicians in the United States be aware of the potential abuse of such potent drugs in all populations, including immigrants.
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High-performance liquid chromatography. Left, A chromatogram obtained using a 250-ng sample of pure steroid treated in a manner similar to our patient's serum sample. Right, A chromatogram of our patient's serum sample indicating the presence of betamethasone and the absence of cortisol.
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