The aim of this review was to describe the current evidence-based knowledge of the epidemiology, prevalence, incidence, risk factors and genetic associations of drug allergy. Articles published between 1966 and 2010 were identified in MEDLINE using the key words adult, adverse drug reaction reporting systems, age factors, anaphylactoid, anaphylaxis, anaesthetics, antibiotics, child, drug allergy, drug eruptions, ethnic groups, hypersensitivity, neuromuscular depolarizing agents, neuromuscular nondepolarizing agents, sex factors, Stevens Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Additional studies were identified from article reference lists. Relevant, peer-reviewed original research articles, case series and reviews were considered for review. Current epidemiological studies on adverse drug reactions (ADRs) have used different definitions for ADR-related terminology, often do not differentiate immunologically and non-immunologically mediated drug hypersensitivity, study different study populations (different ethnicities, inpatients or outpatients, adults or children), utilize different methodologies (spontaneous vs. non-spontaneous reporting, cohort vs. case-control studies), different methods of assessing drug imputability and different methods of data analyses. Potentially life-threatening severe cutaneous adverse reactions (SCAR) are associated with a high risk of morbidity and mortality. HLA associations for SCAR associated with allopurinol, carbamazepine and abacavir have been reported with the potential for clinical use in screening prior to prescription. Identification of risk factors for drug allergy and appropriate genetic screening of at-risk ethnic groups may improve the outcomes of drug-specific SCAR. Research and collaboration are necessary for the generation of clinically-relevant, translational pharmacoepidemiological and pharmacogenomic knowledge, and success of health outcomes research and policies on drug allergies.
© 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology © 2011 The British Pharmacological Society.