Drug-induced immune thrombocytopenia: incidence, clinical features, laboratory testing, and pathogenic mechanisms


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American National Red Cross

Subject: Medical Laboratory Technology


ISSN: 0894-203X
eISSN: 1930-3955





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VOLUME 30 , ISSUE 2 (June 2014) > List of articles

Drug-induced immune thrombocytopenia: incidence, clinical features, laboratory testing, and pathogenic mechanisms

Brian R. Curtis

Keywords : drug-dependent platelet antibodies, druginduced immune thrombocytopenia

Citation Information : Immunohematology. Volume 30, Issue 2, Pages 55-65, DOI: https://doi.org/10.21307/immunohematology-2019-099

License : (Transfer of Copyright)

Published Online: 06-November-2019



Drug-induced immune thrombocytopenia (DIIT) is a relatively uncommon adverse reaction caused by drug-dependent antibodies (DDAbs) that react with platelet membrane glycoproteins only when the implicated drug is present. Although more than 100 drugs have been associated with causing DIIT, recent reviews of available data show that carbamazepine, eptifibatide, ibuprofen, quinidine, quinine, oxaliplatin, rifampin, sulfamethoxazole, trimethoprim, and vancomycin are probably the most frequently implicated. Patients with DIIT typically present with petechiae, bruising, and epistaxis caused by an acute, severe drop in platelet count (often to <20,000 platelets/µL). Diagnosis of DIIT is complicated by its similarity to other non–drug-induced immune thrombocytopenias, including autoimmune thrombocytopenia, posttransfusion purpura, and platelet transfusion refractoriness, and must be differentiated by temporal association of exposure to a candidate drug with an acute, severe drop in platelet count. Treatment consists of immediate withdrawal of the implicated drug. Criteria for strong evidence of DIIT include (1) exposure to candidate drug–preceded thrombocytopenia; (2) sustained normal platelet levels after discontinuing candidate drug; (3) candidate drug was only drug used before onset of thrombocytopenia or other drugs were continued or reintroduced after resolution of thrombocytopenia, and other causes for thrombocytopenia were excluded; and (4) reexposure to the candidate drug resulted in recurrent thrombocytopenia. Flow cytometry testing for DDAbs can be useful in confirmation of a clinical diagnosis, and monoclonal antibody enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay testing can be used to determine the platelet glycoprotein target(s), usually GPIIb/IIIa or GPIb/IX/V, but testing is not widely available. Several pathogenic mechanisms for DIIT have been proposed, including hapten, autoantibody, neoepitope, drug-specific, and quinine-type drug mechanisms. A recent proposal suggests weakly reactive platelet autoantibodies that develop greatly increased affinity for platelet glycoprotein epitopes through bridging interactions facilitated by the drug is a possible mechanism for the formation and reactivity of quinine-type drug antibodies.

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