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Drug-induced lung disease 

Drug-induced lung disease

Drug-induced lung disease

S.J. Bourke

and D.J. Hendrick


July 30, 2015: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

A relevant case history from Oxford Case Histories in Respiratory Medicine has been added to this chapter.


Chapter reviewed June 2011—no substantial updates required; Further reading updated.

Updated on 30 Nov 2011. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 23 April 2017

Drug-induced lung disease is common and needs to be considered in the differential diagnosis of many respiratory conditions. The nature and timing of events often provide an important clue and are sometimes sufficiently characteristic for drug-induced lung disease to be diagnosed with confidence, with resolution of symptoms on drug cessation providing invaluable supportive evidence. Well-recognized adverse drug effects are listed in formularies and drug data sheets, but it is often helpful to consult a constantly updated website: is highly recommended.

Direct drug effects may arise through toxic, pharmacological, allergic, or idiosyncratic mechanisms, and there may also be indirect effects, e.g. a predisposition to lung infection from cytotoxic and immunosuppressive therapies. From a clinical perspective adverse effects may be classified according to the induced disorder and/or the site of involvement.

Asthma—the most common airway disorder to be induced or exacerbated by drugs; may be produced by a predictable effect related to the drug’s pharmacological properties (e.g. β‎-adrenergic antagonists) or as an idiosyncratic reaction (e.g. aspirin).

Cough—a well-recognized side effect of treatment with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

Alveolar/interstitial reactions—comprise three main categories: (1) alveolar capillary leakage, e.g. hydrochlorothiazide; (2) alveolar/interstitial inflammation and/or fibrosis, e.g. bleomycin, amiodarone; and (3) pulmonary eosinophilia, e.g. sulphonamides.

Pulmonary vasculature—venous thromboembolism, e.g. oral contraceptive pill; pulmonary hypertension, e.g. aminorex (now withdrawn), fenfluramine.

Pleura and mediastinum—lymphadenopathy, e.g. phenytoin; pleural effusion, e.g. procainamide; oculomucocutaneous syndrome, e.g. practolol; fibrosis, e.g. methysergide.

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