The frequency of photosensitizing drug dispensings in Austria and Germany: a correlation with their photosensitizing potential based on published literature

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2020 Mar;34(3):589-600. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15952. Epub 2019 Nov 26.


Background: Drug-induced photosensitivity refers to the development of cutaneous adverse events due to interaction between a pharmaceutical compound and sunlight. Although photosensitivity is a very commonly listed side-effect of systemic drugs, reliable data on its actual incidence are lacking so far.

Objectives: A possible approach to evaluate the real-life extent of drug-induced photosensitivity would be an analysis of the frequency of exposure to a given photosensitizing drug combined with an indicator of its photosensitizing potential. This could serve as a basis for developing a pharmaceutical 'heatmap' of photosensitivity.

Methods: The present study investigated the number of reimbursed dispensed packages of potentially photosensitizing drugs in Germany (DE) and Austria (AT) between 2010 and 2017 based on nationwide health insurance-based databases. In addition, an indicator for the photosensitizing potential was established for each drug based on the number of reports on photosensitivity in the literature.

Results: This analysis includes means of 632 826 944 (+/-14 894 918) drug dispensings per year in DE and 113 270 754 (+/-1 964 690) in AT. Out of these, the mean percentage of drugs that enlist photosensitivity as a potential side-effect was 49.5% (±0.7) in DE and 48.2% (±1.2) in AT. When plotting the number of reimbursed dispensed packages vs. the number of reports on photosensitivity, two categories of drugs show high numbers for both parameters, that is diuretics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Conclusions: Diuretics and NSAIDs appear to be responsible for the greatest part of exposure to photosensitizing drugs with potential implication on public health.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology
  • Austria
  • Correlation of Data
  • Diuretics / adverse effects
  • Diuretics / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / adverse effects*
  • Photosensitizing Agents / pharmacology
  • Publishing / statistics & numerical data


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Diuretics
  • Photosensitizing Agents