Lewis Sarett of Merck & Co. was the first to synthesize cortisone, using a 36-step process that started with deoxycholic acid, which was extracted from ox bile .  The low efficiency of converting deoxycholic acid into cortisone led to a cost of US $200 per gram. Russell Marker , at Syntex , discovered a much cheaper and more convenient starting material, diosgenin from wild Mexican yams . His conversion of diosgenin into progesterone by a four-step process now known as Marker degradation was an important step in mass production of all steroidal hormones, including cortisone and chemicals used in hormonal contraception .  In 1952, . Peterson and . Murray of Upjohn developed a process that used Rhizopus mold to oxidize progesterone into a compound that was readily converted to cortisone.  The ability to cheaply synthesize large quantities of cortisone from the diosgenin in yams resulted in a rapid drop in price to US $6 per gram, falling to $ per gram by 1980. Percy Julian's research also aided progress in the field.  The exact nature of cortisone's anti-inflammatory action remained a mystery for years after, however, until the leukocyte adhesion cascade and the role of phospholipase A2 in the production of prostaglandins and leukotrienes was fully understood in the early 1980s.
Because steroids are hormones, patients who use them for long periods of time must be carefully monitored. The most common side effects are: weight gain; thinning of the skin; upset stomach; muscle weakness in the thighs, shoulders, and neck; “masking” or hiding a fever; mood swings; insomnia; pneumonia; and increased blood sugar levels (especially in patients with diabetes). Steroids can also interact with some seizure medications, either raising or lowering the seizure medicine levels in the blood, which can affect their effectiveness. Your doctor can explain other side effects that may occur with steroid use.