Major advances have been made in recent years in our understanding of the pathogenetic mechanisms of drug-induced blood dyscrasias, particularly those involving the red cell. Among the latter, hemolytic anemia is the most common. Drug-induced red cell destruction may occur on an immune basis or through disruption by the drug of red cell metabolism. The immunological basis of drug-induced hemolysis is reviewed with emphasis on the clinical and laboratory manifestations, differential diagnosis and the major mechanisms involved. Drug-induced oxidative hemolysis both in normal individuals and in those with certain enzymopathies, notably glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency, is summarized. Drugs may also produce red cell dyscrasias by acting on the immature erythroid compartment. Some of these inhibit erythroid growth by as yet poorly understood mechanisms. Others exert more specific metabolic effects in erythroid precursors. These include drugs which interfere with DNA synthesis causing megaloblastic erythropoiesis and those which disrupt mitochondrial function and the synthesis of heme manifested by sideroblastic erythropoiesis. A brief consideration of heme biosynthesis and the action of drugs which are associated with sideroblastic anemia, including the antituberculous agents, lead, alcohol and chloramphenicol is presented. Finally, where pertinent, an updated listing of drugs involved in red cell dyscrasias is included.
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