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Sulphasalazien and lung toxicity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sally Parry, Dr Timothy Peel, Professor Roger Barton


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Sulphasalazine prescribing is on the increase. Pulmonary toxicity and blood dyscrasias are rare side-effects. Numerous case reports have been published implicating sulphasalazine in pulmonary toxicity. The authors searched the literature for cases of sulphasalazine induced lung toxicity and the 50 cases identified are discussed here. All published case reports/letters referring to sulphasalazine and lung toxicity were studied. The search terms "sulphasalazine" and "sulfasalazine" were combined with the terms "lung", "pulmonary disease", "pneumonitis" and "pleuritis" using Medline and PubMed databases. Typical presentation of sulphasalazine-induced lung disease was with new onset dyspnoea and infiltrates on chest radiography. Common symptoms were cough and fever. Crepitations on auscultation and peripheral eosinophilia were noted in half of the cases. Sputum production, allergy history, rash, chest pain and weight loss were inconsistent findings. Pulmonary pathology was variable, the commonest being eosinophilic pneumonia with peripheral eosinophilia and interstitial inflammation with or without fibrosis. Fatal reports were infrequent. Most patients were managed by drug withdrawal with 40% prescribed corticosteroids. In conclusion, sulphasalazine lung disease should be distinguished from interstitial lung disease due to underlying primary disease. Despite the increase in sulphasalazine prescribing, pulmonary toxicity remains rare. The majority of patients with suspected sulphasalazine-induced lung disease improved within weeks of drug withdrawal and the need for corticosteroids is debatable.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Peel ET; Barton JR; Parry SD; Barbatzas C

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: European Respiratory Journal

Year: 2002

Volume: 19

Issue: 4

Pages: 756-764

ISSN (print): 0903-1936

ISSN (electronic): 1399-3003


DOI: 10.1183/09031936.02.00267402

PubMed id: 11999006