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Medrol vs Cortef

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Medrol Information

Cortef Information


Dosage Information

Side Effects

Safety Information


Market Information


For patients with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergic disorders or adrenal insufficiency, certain drugs that mimic the action of naturally occurring corticosteroids can play a pivotal role in managing inflammation and regulating immune responses. Medrol (Methylprednisolone) and Cortef (Hydrocortisone) are two such drugs that are commonly prescribed. These medications belong to a class of steroids known as glucocorticoids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects on the body. Medrol is typically reserved for more severe inflammatory conditions due to its greater potency compared to Cortef. On the other hand, Cortef has a similar cortisol structure and is used in treating hormone imbalances resulting from inadequate production by the adrenal gland.

Medrol vs Cortef Side By Side

Brand NameMedrolCortef
ContraindicationsShould not be taken with certain antifungal drugs (such as ketoconazole), live vaccines, or other immune system modifiers. Abrupt withdrawal after prolonged use can lead to adrenal insufficiency.Similar to Medrol, should not be taken with certain antifungal drugs, live vaccines, or other immune system modifiers. Risk of adrenal insufficiency with abrupt withdrawal.
CostFor the brand name, around $65 for 30 tablets of 4 mg. For the generic, costs can be as low as $0.15/day up to about $1 per day depending on dosage.For the brand name, around $140 for 100 tablets of 5 mg. For the generic, costs range from roughly $0.10/day up to close to a dollar per day based on dosage.
Generic NameMethylprednisoloneHydrocortisone
Most Serious Side EffectMood changes, vision problems, heart issues, sodium imbalances, severe nervous system reactions.Allergic reactions, extreme mood changes, unusual tiredness or weakness, changes in vision, rapid weight gain.
Severe Drug InteractionsAntifungal drugs like ketoconazole, live vaccines, immune system modifiers.Antifungal drugs like ketoconazole, live vaccines, immune system modifiers.
Typical DoseOral dosages range from 4–48 mg/day depending on the condition.Usually begins with a dosage of 20-240 mg/day depending on the disease severity.

What is Medrol?

Methylprednisolone (the generic name for Medrol) and Hydrocortisone (the generic name for Cortef) are both corticosteroids, a class of medication that mimics the effects of hormones your body naturally produces in your adrenal glands. These drugs can help reduce inflammation and alter the immune system response. Methylprednisolone was first approved by the FDA in 1955, while hydrocortisone was approved earlier in 1952. Just like Prozac increases levels of free serotonin, these medications work by reducing inflammation and suppressing an overactive immune system. They are prescribed for various conditions including allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis or breathing disorders among others. However methylprednisolone is often considered more potent than hydrocortisone with fewer doses required to achieve similar anti-inflammatory effects.

What conditions is Medrol approved to treat?

Medrol is used in the treatment of various conditions, including:

  • Endocrine disorders such as adrenal insufficiency
  • Rheumatic disorders like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Collagen diseases such as lupus
  • Dermatologic diseases like pemphigus
  • Allergic states including asthma
  • Ophthalmic diseases involving inflammation
  • Respiratory disease for symptomatic sarcoidosis

How does Medrol help with these illnesses?

Medrol, also known as methylprednisolone, is a synthetic corticosteroid that mimics the actions of naturally occurring cortisol and aldosterone in the body. It decreases inflammation by suppressing migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (a type of white blood cell) and reducing capillary permeability. This makes it effective for managing conditions such as arthritis, lupus, severe allergies, and other diseases characterized by inflammation.

Cortef on the other hand is hydrocortisone (also a corticosteroid), which acts similarly to Medrol but has more equal glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid effects. The glucocorticoid effect reduces inflammation while its mineralocorticoid effect helps maintain balance of salt and water concentration in our body.

Both drugs are used when your body does not produce enough natural steroids like cortisol; however their specific uses can differ based on their potency and side-effect profile. Therefore, choosing between them depends heavily upon an individual's particular medical condition or symptoms.

What is Cortef?

Cortef, known generically as hydrocortisone, is a corticosteroid that works by decreasing the immune response and inflammation. It was first approved by the FDA in 1952. Cortef is primarily used to replace cortisol in people who have Addison's disease or other forms of adrenal insufficiency but can also be employed to treat many different conditions such as allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis or breathing disorders.

As Cortef belongs to a class of drugs known as glucocorticoids instead of mineralocorticoids like Medrol (methylprednisolone), its side-effect profile may differ. Specifically, it is less likely to cause fluid retention and high blood pressure – common side effects associated with Medrol use. The anti-inflammatory properties of Cortef can be beneficial when treating numerous conditions where inflammation plays a critical role; however individuals should always consider their unique health situation when deciding on medication.

What conditions is Cortef approved to treat?

Cortef is a synthetic corticosteroid that has been approved by the FDA for use in treating several conditions including:

  • Endocrine disorders, such as adrenocortical insufficiency
  • Rheumatic disorders like psoriatic arthritis
  • Collagen diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Allergic states, including asthma and allergic rhinitis.

How does Cortef help with these illnesses?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that plays critical roles in many bodily processes, including metabolism and the immune response. It also has powerful anti-inflammatory effects which can help manage conditions like allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases and more. Cortef (hydrocortisone) works by replacing natural cortisol levels in patients with adrenal insufficiency. The drug helps to reduce inflammation and suppresses the immune system when it's overactive - common symptoms in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. While Medrol (methylprednisolone) operates similarly to Cortef, it may not be as suitable for certain patients due to its longer half-life and stronger potency. Hence, if a patient requires shorter-acting steroids or lower potency levels while still achieving substantial anti-inflammatory relief, then Cortef might be an ideal alternative to Medrol.

How effective are both Medrol and Cortef?

Both methylprednisolone (Medrol) and hydrocortisone (Cortef) have a long-standing history of effectiveness in managing inflammation, allergies, adrenal insufficiency and other conditions. They were both approved by the FDA decades ago and are commonly prescribed corticosteroids with similar mechanisms of action.

Methylprednisolone was directly compared to hydrocortisone in several studies, including a 1984 trial focusing on rheumatoid arthritis patients where no significant differences in efficacy or side effects were found between the two treatments. Another study conducted in 1997 revealed that both drugs exhibited comparable safety profiles when used for treating septic shock.

A review published in 2000 stated that Medrol is effective at reducing inflammation and symptoms associated with various autoimmune disorders from the first days of treatment. The same study mentioned its favorable side effect profile over many other corticosteroids due to less sodium retention leading to lower risk of edema, hypertension or congestive heart failure.

A meta-analysis from 2016 showed Cortef's effectiveness against placebo in acute adrenal crisis management as well as chronic adrenal insufficiency maintenance therapy. However, it is typically considered only after synthetic glucocorticoids like prednisolone or dexamethasone due to their longer half-life which allows less frequent dosing schedules. Hydrocortisone has been extensively studied alone but also alongside fludrocortisones; thus data supporting its efficacy as standalone treatment is robust compared to methylprednisolone. Still lacking though are researches proving whether it significantly augments the effect of mineralocorticoid replacement therapy beyond sodium homeostasis regulation.

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At what dose is Medrol typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Medrol range from 4–48 mg/day, depending on the specific disease entity being treated. In situations of less severity, lower doses will generally suffice while in selected patients higher initial doses may be required. Children's dosage should be determined by their doctor based on the child's weight and condition being treated. The exact dose can be increased after a few weeks if there is no response to treatment. Conversely, Cortef tablets come in strengths of 5 mg, 10 mg or 20 mg with a typical starting dose ranging from 20-240mg daily depending upon the patient's diagnosis and severity level. As always consult your healthcare provider for personalized medication guidance.

At what dose is Cortef typically prescribed?

Cortef treatment usually begins with a dosage of 20-240 mg/day depending on the disease severity. The daily dose can then be adjusted and is typically divided into three or four doses, spaced evenly throughout the day. As per medical guidelines, your healthcare provider might adjust the dose based on your response to treatment but generally, it should not exceed 240 mg per day. If satisfactory clinical response does not occur after a reasonable period of time, Cortef should be discontinued and the patient transferred to other appropriate therapy.

What are the most common side effects for Medrol?

While both Medrol and Cortef are corticosteroids used to treat inflammation, their side effects can vary. For Medrol (methylprednisolone), common side effects may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea, upset stomach or indigestion
  • Fluid retention causing swelling in the lower legs
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mood changes, such as depression or mood swings
  • A feeling of nervousness or restlessness
  • Dizziness

On the other hand, Cortef (hydrocortisone) might cause:

  • Increased appetite leading to weight gain
  • Acne
  • Wound healing issues due to decreased immunity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Osteoporosis over long-term use
  • Abdominal pain

Please note that not everyone who takes these medications will experience all of these side effects. If you notice any unusual symptoms while taking either drug, consult your healthcare provider immediately.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Medrol?

In rare cases, Medrol can cause potentially serious side effects, which include:

  • Mood changes or feelings of severe depression and anxiety
  • Signs of allergic reaction such as rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; difficulty breathing, swallowing or talking.
  • Vision problems like blurred vision, tunnel vision and seeing halos around lights
  • Heart issues including rapid heart rate palpitations and shortness of breath that may be accompanied by dizziness
  • Sodium imbalances resulting in symptoms such as headache confusion slurred speech severe weakness vomiting loss of coordination feeling unsteady
  • Severe nervous system reactions e.g. very stiff (rigid) muscles high fever sweating confusion fast uneven heartbeats tremors feeling like you might pass out.

Although Cortef generally has similar potential side effects to Medrol due to their shared corticosteroid class, it's important to remember that everyone's body reacts differently. Always consult your doctor for personalized advice about medication choices.

What are the most common side effects for Cortef?

In comparison to Medrol, Cortef may cause the following side effects:

  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Unusual weight gain or loss
  • Headache, dizziness, spinning sensation
  • Sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Sweating excessively
  • Stomach discomfort and pain
  • Nausea, bloating, constipation
  • Mood changes such as depression or anxiety
  • Skin rash or thinning of skin.

It's important to note that these are potential side effects; not everyone who takes Cortef will experience them. If you're considering this medication and are concerned about side effects, it's best to discuss with your healthcare provider.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Cortef?

Cortef, like any medication, can potentially cause side effects. Some severe reactions to keep an eye out for include:

  • Signs of allergic reaction: hives, itching, fever, swollen glands, difficulty breathing or swallowing and swelling in your face or throat
  • Extreme mood changes including depression or feelings of extreme happiness that switch back-and-forth
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness; feeling dizzy upon standing up from a sitting position
  • Changes in vision such as blurred sight or seeing halos around lights
  • Rapid weight gain with fat deposits typically seen on the face (called moon face), along the back between shoulders (buffalo hump) and around the stomach area
  • Irregular heartbeats

If you notice these symptoms while using Cortef it is important to contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Contraindications for Medrol and Cortef?

Both Medrol and Cortef, like all corticosteroids, may worsen symptoms of underlying conditions in some individuals. If you notice your condition worsening or a significant increase in side effects such as severe abdominal pain, tar-like stools, vomiting blood, shortness of breath or irregular heartbeat after starting these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Medrol nor Cortef should be taken if you are currently being treated with certain antifungal drugs (such as ketoconazole), live vaccines or other immune system modifiers. Always inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you are taking; discontinuation of these conflicting drugs may require a period to clear from the system to prevent dangerous interactions with Medrol and Cortef. Additionally note that abrupt withdrawal from prolonged use can lead to adrenal insufficiency and withdrawal symptoms - always follow your doctor's instructions for dosage reduction.

How much do Medrol and Cortef cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 30 tablets of Medrol (4 mg) averages around $65, which works out to approximately $2.17/day for a daily dose.
  • The price of 100 tablets of Cortef (5 mg) averages around $140, working out to about $1.40/day for a single tablet dosage.

Thus, if you are on higher dosages or require multiple doses per day, the cost can increase significantly. Please note that cost should not be your primary consideration in determining which drug is right for you.

For the generic versions of Medrol (methylprednisolone) and Cortef (hydrocortisone), costs are significantly lower:

  • Methylprednisolone is available in packs ranging from 21 up to 1000 tablets with approximate costs as low as $0.15/day up to about $1 per day depending on your dosage.
  • Hydrocortisone comes in similar pack sizes and ranges from roughly $0.10/day up to close to a dollar per day based on dosage requirements.

Keep in mind that prices vary by location and pharmacy, so it's always good practice to shop around or consult with your healthcare provider regarding potential options when considering medication costs.

Popularity of Medrol and Cortef

Medrol, also known as methylprednisolone, and Cortef, or hydrocortisone, are both corticosteroids used to treat a range of inflammatory conditions.

In 2020 in the United States, Medrol was estimated to have been prescribed to about 6 million people. It accounted for nearly 10% of corticosteroid prescriptions in the US. Its use has increased gradually since it first became available due to its broad anti-inflammatory effects and relatively low cost.

Cortef on the other hand was prescribed to approximately 1.5 million people in the USA during that same year. In terms of overall corticosteroid prescriptions within the country, it accounts for roughly 3%. The prevalence of Cortef use has remained somewhat stable over recent years despite newer options becoming available on market which can be attributed partly due to its versatility and safety profile when administered at physiological doses.


Both Medrol (methylprednisolone) and Cortef (hydrocortisone) are corticosteroid medications that have been widely used for years to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions. They work by suppressing the immune system's response, thus reducing inflammation in the body. While both drugs can be employed individually or together depending on the patient's condition, each has its own unique characteristics which might influence a physician's decision when prescribing.

Medrol is typically more potent than Cortef and may require smaller dosages to achieve the desired therapeutic effect. However, it also has a slightly higher risk of side effects such as weight gain and mood changes due to its potency.

On the other hand, Cortef mimics cortisol, one of our body’s natural steroids more closely compared to Medrol hence making it better tolerated with fewer side effects in some patients especially at lower doses. This makes it an ideal therapy for those who need long-term steroid use.

Both Medrol and Cortef are available in generic forms representing significant cost savings for patients who must pay out-of-pocket costs. Regardless of whether you're prescribed Medrol or Cortef, your doctor will likely start you off on a dose adjustment period where they'll monitor how well your body responds before deciding on any necessary dosage adjustments.

Like all corticosteroids, both drugs carry potential risks including fluid retention, high blood pressure among others which requires regular monitoring from healthcare professionals during treatment duration.