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The Toxicity of D-Penicillamine in Systemic Sclerosis

VIRGINIA D. STEEN, M.D.; SANDRA BLAIR, B.S.; and THOMAS A. MEDSGER Jr., M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant support: grants FR-00056 and AM-21393 from the National Institutes of Health; a grant from the RGK Foundation, Austin, Texas; and a grant from Mr. and Mrs. Louis Kunian.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Virginia D. Steen, M.D.; 985 Scaife Hall, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; Pittsburgh, PA 15261.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


© 1986 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


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

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