Current Treatment Options in Allergy

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 239–257 | Cite as

Epidemiology and Risk Factors in Drug Hypersensitivity Reactions

  • Eva Rebelo GomesEmail author
  • Semanur Kuyucu
Drug Allergy (MJ Torres Jaén, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Drug Allergy

Opinion Statement

Data on adverse drug reactions (ADRs) is abundant, especially regarding prevalence and incidence among hospital-based populations. Most studies, however, do not differentiate between drug hypersensitivity reactions (DHRs) and other kinds of ADR, and in those ones where this information is available, the diagnosis of DHR or drug allergy is mostly based on a suspected clinical history or self-reporting as the majority of patients are not referred for an allergy diagnostic workup. Large studies in drug allergy clinics revealed that only 10 to 20% of the initial DHR suspicions are actually confirmed after investigation. Diagnosis based only on clinical histories largely overestimates drug hypersensitivity, so specific data on DHR is scarce and generally of low quality. Epidemiological data, although limited, can help researchers to identify potential risk factors for DHR. Females seem to be more susceptible than males to ADR and DHRs in adult populations, while the female gender is not a risk factor among children. ADRs have also a higher incidence among young children and among the elderly. The role of atopy as a risk factor for DHR is still debatable; however, recent evidence shows that it can actually be important considering reactions to betalactams and NSAIDs. Comorbidities as infections and underlying chronic diseases are known risk factors both for ADR in general and for DHR. The most recent investigation concentrates on the importance of genetic risk factors, and many gene polymorphisms have been identified with strong associations to particular kind of DHR and/or to reactions to specific drugs. This article will discuss general limitations of the available epidemiological data on DHR and will present an in-depth review of the main identified risk factors for drug reactions with special focus on genetic findings.


Drug allergy Drug hypersensitivity Epidemiology Prevalence Risk factors Genetic risk factors 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Eva Gomes declares financial support to attend DHM and EAACI meetings as an invited speaker. Dr. Semanur Kuyucu declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

References and Recommended Reading

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Allergy DepartmentCentro Hospitalar do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Pediatric Allergy and Immunology Department, Faculty of MedicineMersin UniversityMersinTurkey

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