ATC Code A01AC03, A07EA02, C05AA01, D07AA02, D07XA01, H02AB09, S01BA02, S01CB03, S02BA01
Formula C21H30O5
Molar Mass (g·mol−1) 362,47
Physical State solid
Melting Point (°C) 212–213
CAS Number 50-23-7
PUB Number 5754
Drugbank ID DB00741
Solubility low in water


Hydrocortisone is a drug from the group of glucocorticoids. Its indications include conditions such as adrenal insufficiency, adrenogenital syndrome, high blood calcium levels, thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatitis, asthma, and COPD. It is the treatment of choice for adrenal insufficiency. It can be administered by mouth, topically, or by injection.



Hydrocortisone acts because of its structural similarity to endogenous glucocorticoids. Unbound, it can penetrate the membrane of the cell and then bind with high affinity to intracellular glucocorticoid receptors.

The anti-inflammatory (anti-inflammatory) effect is achieved by interfering with the so-called arachidonic acid metabolism. Hydrocortisone causes fewer prostaglandins and leukotrienes to be produced at the end of this metabolism. These are significantly involved in the inflammatory process of the human body.

Hydrocortisone has an anti-allergic effect by preventing the release of histamine and simultaneously reducing the number and activity of certain B and T lymphocytes.


Absorption and bioavailability vary according to dosage form. Plasma protein binding is approximately 90%. Metabolism occurs in the liver and is catalyzed by CYP450 family enzymes. Excretion occurs via the kidneys.


Side effects

Side effects may include mood changes, increased risk of infection, and swelling.

With long-term use, common side effects include osteoporosis, stomach upset, physical weakness, easy bruising, and yeast infections.

Use during pregnancy is not recommended.

Toxicological data

LD50 (mouse, intraperitoneal): 150 mg-kg-1


  • Drugbank
  • PubChem
  • Aktories, Förstermann, Hofmann, Starke: Allgemeine und spezielle Pharmakologie und Toxikologie, Elsvier, 2017
Markus Falkenstätter

Markus Falkenstätter

Markus Falkenstätter ist Autor zu pharmazeutischen Themen in der Medizin-Redaktion von Medikamio. Er befindet sich im letzten Semester seines Pharmaziestudiums an der Universität Wien und liebt das wissenschaftliche Arbeiten im Bereich der Naturwissenschaften.

Mag. pharm Stefanie Lehenauer

Mag. pharm Stefanie Lehenauer

Stefanie Lehenauer ist seit 2020 freie Autorin bei Medikamio und studierte Pharmazie an der Universität Wien. Sie arbeitet als Apothekerin in Wien und ihre Leidenschaft sind pflanzliche Arzneimittel und deren Wirkung.

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