A multicentre study to determine the value and safety of drug patch tests for the three main classes of severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions

Br J Dermatol. 2013 Mar;168(3):555-62. doi: 10.1111/bjd.12125.


Background: Drug patch tests (PTs) can reproduce delayed hypersensitivity to drugs and entail a moderate re-exposure of patients to offending drugs.

Objectives: To determine the value of PTs for identifying the responsible drug in severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions (SCARs) such as acute generalized exanthematous pustulosis (AGEP), drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS) and Stevens-Johnson syndrome/toxic epidermal necrolysis (SJS/TEN).

Methods: In a multicentre study, PTs were conducted on patients referred for DRESS, AGEP or SJS/TEN within 1 year of their SCAR. All drugs administered in the 2 months prior to and the week following the onset of the SCAR were tested.

Results: Among the 134 patients included (48 male, 86 female; mean age 51·7 years), positive drug PTs were obtained for 24 different drugs. These included positive tests for 64% (46/72) of patients with DRESS, 58% (26/45) of those with AGEP and 24% (4/17) of those with SJS/TEN, with only one relapse of AGEP. The value of PTs depended on the type of drug and the type of SCAR (e.g. carbamazepine was positive in 11/13 DRESS cases but none of the five SJS/TEN cases). PTs were frequently positive for beta lactams (22 cases), pristinamycin (11 cases) and in DRESS with pump proton inhibitors (five cases), but were usually negative for allopurinol and salazopyrin. Of 18 patients with DRESS, eight had virus reactivation and positive PTs. In DRESS, multiple drug reactivity was frequent (18% of cases), with patients remaining sensitized many years later.

Conclusions: PTs are useful and safe for identifying agents inducing SCAR.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Generalized Exanthematous Pustulosis / chemically induced
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Drug Eruptions / diagnosis*
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Eosinophilia / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patch Tests / adverse effects
  • Patch Tests / methods
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome / chemically induced
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome / etiology
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult