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Open AccessArticle

Pruritus Associated with Commonly Prescribed Medications in a Tertiary Care Center

Department of Dermatology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, 21205 MD, USA
Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 21205 MD, USA
Division of Dermatology, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, 43210 OH, USA
Department of Dermatology, University of Rzeszow, 35-310 Rzeszow, Poland
Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology, University of Medicine, 50-367 Wroclaw, Poland
Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Münster, 48149 Münster, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Medicines 2019, 6(3), 84;
Received: 16 July 2019 / Revised: 1 August 2019 / Accepted: 2 August 2019 / Published: 4 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pathogenesis and Treatment of Chronic Pruritus)
PDF [558 KB, uploaded 4 August 2019]


Background: Sparse data are available on rates of drug-induced pruritus, a well-recognized adverse reaction. We sought to assess relative rates of pruritus associated with commonly prescribed medications. Methods: Using the electronic medical record system EPIC, retrospective data were collected on patients seen at Johns Hopkins who received a medication of interest in a five-year period (2013–2018). Sequential criteria were used to identify the subpopulation who presented with a chief complaint of “pruritus” or diagnosis of “itching” within three months of receiving drugs. Results: We identified 9802 patients with pruritus after drug initiation and 1,085,404 patients without. A higher proportion of those with pruritus were female (70%) than those without (58%), p < 0.001. Patients in both groups were most commonly 50 to 79 years old. A higher proportion of patients with pruritus were black (40%) compared to those without (23%), p < 0.001. In this study, the highest rates of pruritus were observed with heparin (1.11%), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (1.06%), and calcium channel blockers (0.92%). Psychiatric/neurologic drugs used to treat pruritus were associated with low rates of itch. Conclusions: Certain cardiovascular and antimicrobial agents are associated with increased frequencies of pruritus. This knowledge may guide providers in clinical selection of commonly used agents to minimize adverse effects associated with reduced compliance. View Full-Text
Keywords: pruritus; itch; drug-induced; medication-related; epidemiology pruritus; itch; drug-induced; medication-related; epidemiology

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Huang, A.H.; Kaffenberger, B.H.; Reich, A.; Szepietowski, J.C.; Ständer, S.; Kwatra, S.G. Pruritus Associated with Commonly Prescribed Medications in a Tertiary Care Center. Medicines 2019, 6, 84.

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