Pulmonary disease due to antirheumatic agents

Clin Chest Med. 1990 Mar;11(1):139-50.


Drug-induced lung disease presents several diagnostic and therapeutic problems to the clinician. This is especially true in the case of lung disease associated with antirheumatic agents in which pulmonary disease may be due to the underlying disorder. Unfortunately, no specific markers exist to differentiate drug-induced lung disease from other pathologic processes. In addition, the numerous drugs often used simultaneously or in close sequence in rheumatic disorders make assignment of toxicity to a specific agent difficult. Six groups of drugs used as anti-inflammatory/antirheumatic agents have been discussed in association with pulmonary damage penicillamine, gold, methotrexate, salicylates, NSAIDs, and colchicine. The major clinical syndromes ascribed to these drugs include hypersensitivity pneumonitis and chronic alveolitis/fibrosis (penicillamine, gold, methotrexate, NSAIDs), pulmonary-renal syndrome (penicillamine), bronchiolitis obliterans (penicillamine, gold), and noncardiogenic pulmonary edema (salicylates, colchicine). Unfortunately, treatment options remain limited. Withdrawal of the offending drug and supportive care are the mainstays of therapy. In cases in which active inflammation causes significant derangement of gas exchange, corticosteroids are warranted. More aggressive management using immunosuppressive drugs has been recommended in cases of refractory PABO and PAGS, but these recommendations are at present based only on isolated case reports.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Antirheumatic Agents / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Lung Diseases / therapy
  • Methotrexate / adverse effects
  • Organogold Compounds
  • Penicillamine / adverse effects
  • Salicylates / adverse effects


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Organogold Compounds
  • Salicylates
  • Penicillamine
  • Methotrexate