The toxicity of D-penicillamine in systemic sclerosis

Ann Intern Med. 1986 May;104(5):699-705. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-104-5-699.


We studied D-penicillamine toxicity in 259 patients with systemic sclerosis treated since 1972. The average daily dose of 635 mg was given for a mean of 1.8 years. Of patients with systemic sclerosis, 47% has side effects from D-penicillamine treatment, similar to the 56% of 807 patients with rheumatoid arthritis in seven separate series. Individual manifestations of toxicity included rash, proteinuria, gastrointestinal symptoms, dysgeusia, oral ulcers, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia. Four episodes each of myasthenia gravis and pemphigus occurred in our patients; both were reported rarely in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Adverse effects occurred more frequently after rapid increases in dosage. Treatment had to be discontinued due to toxicity in 29% of patients with systemic sclerosis and in 33% of those with rheumatoid arthritis. Although toxic, with a high frequency of adverse effects, D-penicillamine can be used safely in the treatment of systemic sclerosis. Pemphigus and myasthenia gravis may occur more frequently with therapy for systemic sclerosis than with that for rheumatoid arthritis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Digestive System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology
  • Dysgeusia / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Fever / chemically induced
  • HLA Antigens / analysis
  • Humans
  • Leukopenia / chemically induced
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myasthenia Gravis / chemically induced
  • Penicillamine / adverse effects*
  • Penicillamine / therapeutic use
  • Proteinuria / chemically induced
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / drug therapy*
  • Syndrome
  • Thrombocytopenia / chemically induced
  • Time Factors


  • HLA Antigens
  • Penicillamine