Dermatological ADRs

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Chapter: Pharmacovigilance: Dermatological ADRs

Skin is one of the most common targets of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) .


Dermatological ADRs


Skin is one of the most common targets of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) (Arndt and Hershel, 1976). Eruptions are observed in 0.1–1% of treated patients in pre-marketing trials of most drugs, and also in the placebo groups. A number of drugs of current utiliza-tion are associated with higher rates of skin eruptions: 5–7% for aminopenicillins, 3–4% for antibacterial sulphonamides and 5–10% for many antiepileptics. In a reported prospective survey, 90% of these drug erup-tions were benign (Hunziker et al., 1997). Because under-reporting is expected to be more frequent for benign reactions, one may assume that severe cuta-neous ADRs account for about 2% of all skin reac-tions.

The Council for International Organization of Medi-cal Sciences (CIOMS) considers as serious ADRs that ‘are fatal or life-threatening, or require prolonged hospitalization, or result in persistent or significant disability or incapacity’ (CIOMS, 1997) Because hospitalization may depend on the socioeconomic status of the patient and on access to health care, we prefer to consider as severe those drug eruptions that are associated with a definite risk of increased mortality, even if the risk is low, and whether the risk is related to ‘acute skin failure’, to associated visceral lesions or to both factors. Not all severe skin ADRs develop rapidly. Many well-defined clini-cal entities like drug-induced pemphigus, psoriasis or lupus usually occur after prolonged exposure.

It is our opinion that the different clinical patterns of severe drug eruptions should be distinguished, while others prefer mixing all of them under the denom-ination of ‘hypersensitivity reactions’ (Knowles, Uetrecht and Shear, 2000). Both conceptions are based on mechanistic considerations. The ‘mergers’ empha-size the role of ‘reactive metabolites’ of drugs as common initiators of all types of reactions. The ‘split-ters’ underline the differences in clinical presentation, pathology of skin and visceral lesions, and biologic markers that suggest that the effector mechanisms are probably different (Roujeau and Stern, 1994).

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