The assessment of severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions

Aust Prescr. 2022 Apr;45(2):43-48. doi: 10.18773/austprescr.2022.010. Epub 2022 Apr 1.


Severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions include Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and acute generalised exanthematous pustulosis. These eruptions are a type of delayed hypersensitivity reaction and can be life-threatening. The assessment of a severe cutaneous drug reaction requires a detailed clinical history and examination to identify the culprit drug and evaluate the allergy. Allopurinol, antibiotics and anticonvulsants are often implicated. Patch testing and delayed intradermal testing can assist in determining if the reaction was allergic, however there is limited evidence about the sensitivity and specificity of skin testing in severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions. If the testing is non-conclusive or negative, it is recommended to avoid the suspected culprit drug and any structurally similar drug in future. Any decision to reintroduce a drug should be made after considering the harm-benefit ratio. Caution is also needed if considering a possibly cross-reactive drug in a patient with a history of severe cutaneous adverse drug reactions.

Keywords: Stevens- Johnson syndrome; acute generalised exanthematous pustulosis; adverse drug reactions; delayed hypersensitivity; drug eruptions.

Publication types

  • Review