How Long Does Medrol Dose Pack Take To Start Working?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses how long it takes for Medrol (methylprednisolone) to start working.

Question

I just started a Medrol Dose Pack. I have taken it in the past. How long does it take to know that it's working?

Asked by Joanne On Dec 14, 2021

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published Dec 14, 2021
Last updated Mar 03, 2022

Key points

  • Medrol (methylprednisolone) is absorbed quickly after taking by mouth, reaching peak concentrations in 1-2 hours. It may take longer to notice the effects of the drug, however.
  • If you are treating something like contact dermatitis (i.e. a skin rash caused by something like poison ivy), it should begin to help relieve your itching and rash within a 12 to 24 hours.
  • If you are treating other conditions, like pain, it may take a day or two for you to notice the effects.

Thanks for reaching out to us!

How soon you will start to feel your Medrol Dose Pack (methylprednisolone) working depends both on the individual taking it and what exactly you are taking it for.

For example, if you are taking it for the treatment of pain, say, low back or joint pain, it might take a few days to begin to notice the effects as inflammation subsides.

If you are taking it for the treatment of contact dermatitis, like poison ivy, you most likely will begin to feel better much faster, within 12 to 24 hours.

From a pharmacokinetic standpoint, which relates to measurable characteristics of drugs such as their absorption, distribution, and metabolism, methylprednisolone (the oral tablet form) is a fast-acting drug.

After taking it by mouth, it is rapidly absorbed and peak concentrations in the blood are reached within 1-2 hours.

However, just because it is absorbed from the GI tract and reaches the bloodstream quickly, this doesn't necessarily mean you'll notice the effects that fast.

I discuss the onset of action of Medrol in more detail below in the next section.

Onset Of Action

There have been numerous studies evaluating the effects of methylprednisolone (or similar systemic steroids) for the treatment of a variety of indications, including acute back pain, bronchitis, pneumonia, gout, contact dermatitis (e.g. poison ivy) and asthma. 

When steroids like methylprednisolone are effective, most report that you will notice benefits within 12 to 24 hours, although this can vary by individual and vary based on what you are treating.

Asthma/COPD

One study, Oral corticosteroids in patients admitted to hospital with exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: A prospective randomised controlled trial, found that a short course of oral steroids, like Medrol, significantly improved lung function within 24 hours. It also had longer-term positive effects, such as an overall reduction in the duration of hospital stay, and disease relapse.

Contact Dermatitis

Another study, which evaluated the effects of steroids like methylprednisolone in cases of contact dermatitis (like poison ivy), showed that a reduction in symptoms happens often within 12 hours of administration. This is most likely due to the fact that it acts as both an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant.

Gout

There is also a large body of evidence showing that methylprednisolone can work quickly to relieve the symptoms of an acute gout attack, sometimes within just a few hours of administration. In fact, the 2012 American College of Rheumatology guidelines for the management of gout recommends systemic steroids, like methylprednisolone, in certain individuals for the treatment of an acute gout attack.

Other Conditions

There are cases where you may not notice the effects of Medrol all that quickly.

For pain symptoms, methylprednisone won't feel like it's necessarily fast acting. Since it's pain-reducing effects are closely tied to its anti-inflammatory properties, it may take a day or two after starting to notice positive effects.

When used for acute sinusitis, bronchitis, or sore throat, many studies suggest that steroids aren't all that beneficial overall, but may help slightly in reducing symptom duration (by an average of about a day).

What Is A Medrol Dose Pack?

A Medrol Dose Pack is a short, 6-day course of the corticosteroid methylprednisolone. It is a 'tapering' dose, starting at 24mg on day one, decreasing by 4 mg every day.

Courses of steroids, even short ones, are prescribed as 'tapering' doses to reduce the risk of side effects and adverse reactions. Tapering may prevent, or reduce the risk of:

  • HPA axis (i.e. adrenal) suppression
  • Disease relapse or flare

Directions For Use

The labeled directions for the Medrol Dose Pack are:

  • 1st Day: 2 tablets (8 mg) before breakfast, 1 tablet (4 mg) after lunch, 1 tablet (4 mg) after supper, and 2 tablets (8 mg) at bedtime.
  • 2nd Day: 1 tablet (4 mg) before breakfast. 1 tablet (4 mg) after lunch, 1 tablet (4 mg) after supper, and 2 tablets (8 mg) at bedtime.
  • 3rd day: 1 tablet (4 mg) before breakfast, 1 tablet (4 mg) after lunch, 1 tablet (4 mg) after supper, and 1 tablet (4 mg) at bedtime.
  • 4th day: 1 tablet (4 mg) before breakfast, 1 tablet (4 mg) after lunch, and 1 tablet (4 mg) at bedtime.
  • 5th day: 1 tablet (4 mg) before breakfast, and 1 tablet (4 mg) at bedtime.
  • 6th day: 1 tablet (4 mg) before breakfast.

The above dosing regimen is just a recommendation and may be altered by your doctor based on your individual needs and response.

Side Effects

The most common side effect of the Medrol Dose Pack is nausea. Taking it with food can help to reduce the incidence of it.

Other common side effects include:

  • Hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar)
  • Heartburn
  • Insomnia
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Increased or decreased energy

Final Words

Thanks again for your question!

We appreciate you reaching out!

References

  • Elsevier ClinicalKey: Methylprednisolone (Accessed 1/17/19), Elsevier ClinicalKey
  • Side effects of short-term oral corticosteroids, PubMed
  • 2012 American College of Rheumatology guidelines for management of gout. Part 2: therapy and antiinflammatory prophylaxis of acute gouty arthritis., Arthritis Care & Research Vol. 64, No. 10, October 2012, pp 1447–1461
  • Adjunct prednisone therapy for patients with community-acquired pneumonia: a multicentre, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, PubMed
  • Contact dermatitis: a practice parameter, PubMed
  • Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians, PubMed
  • Effect of Oral Dexamethasone Without Immediate Antibiotics vs Placebo on Acute Sore Throat in Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial, PubMed
  • Systemic corticosteroids for acute sinusitis, PubMed

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication related questions!

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