Conference Coverage

D.C.-area blacks face increased risk of mortality from SJS/TEN


Black patients in the Washington, D.C., area face an increased risk of mortality from Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), compared with nonblack patients, results from a single-center study showed.

Dr. Adam Swigost

Adam Swigost, MD, presented data on behalf of the study’s principal investigator, Helena B. Pasieka, MD, and associates at MedStar Health Georgetown University in Washington in a video presentation during a virtual meeting held by the George Washington University department of dermatology. The virtual meeting included presentations slated for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, which was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2009-2012 Nationwide Inpatient Survey, there were 12,195 cases of SJS, 2,373 cases of SJS/TEN overlap, and 2,675 cases of TEN. In 2016, researchers led by Derek Y. Hsu, MD, of Northwestern University, Chicago, found that SJS/TEN was associated with nonwhite race, particularly Asians (odds ratio, 3.27) and blacks (OR, 2.01) (J Invest Dermatol. 2016;136[7]:1387-97).

“This led Dr. Pasieka and our team to ask the question: Are there differences in SJS/TEN outcomes in self-reported blacks in the U.S.?” said Dr. Swigost, a resident in the department of dermatology at MedStar Health Georgetown University.

To find out, he and his colleagues retrospectively analyzed records from 74 patients with SJS/TEN who were treated at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., from 2009 to 2019. They drew data from clinical diagnoses with histopathologic evaluation, when available, and performed a multivariate analysis adjusted for age, HIV status, black race, and offending drug category.

Of the 75 patients, 43 were female, 45 were black, 16 were white, 6 were Asian, 5 were Indian, 1 was Native American, and 1 was South Asian. Multivariate analysis revealed that black race was the only significant variable associated with an elevated risk of mortality from SJS/TEN (OR, 4.81; P = .04).

Of the 45 black patients in the study, 33 were HIV negative and 12 were HIV positive. “While this variable was not statistically significant, it did seem to have an elevated risk for mortality in HIV-positive patients [4 of 12; 33%], compared with 8 of 33 HIV-negative patients [25%],” Dr. Swigost said.

Next, the researchers investigated the culprit medications in the black patients. As a reference, they compared their data with a 2015 study that set out to document the clinical profile, etiologies, and outcomes of SJS and TEN in hospitals in four sub-Saharan African countries (Int J Dermatol. 2013 May;52[5]:575-9). In the 2015 study, sulfonamides were the most-used drugs (38%) followed by the antiretroviral drug nevirapine (20%) and tuberculosis drugs (6%). In the study by Dr. Swigost and colleagues, the most frequently implicated drugs were sulfonamides (24%), followed by other antibiotics (24%), and anticonvulsants (17%).

“Our patients at MedStar Washington Hospital Center are going to have different comorbidities and medical problems that dictate different medications being used in different proportions,” Dr. Swigost explained.

Delayed detection is one possible reason for the increased mortality observed in black patients. “Dermatology education on a national level is biased most commonly toward white skin,” he said. “Often, diseases can be missed in skin of color. It’s possible that the diagnoses are being delayed and so treatment is being delayed.”

Socioeconomics and access to health care could also play a role in the poor outcome we observed. “Those are variables we want to further analyze in this data,” Dr. Swigost said. “Other things to consider are genetic variations between African and American black patient populations, because in the U.S. our black population is likely more heterogeneous than African patient populations are. It’s possible that there are HLA [human leukocyte antigen] differences that are contributing. Lastly, further characterization and stratification of SJS/TEN risk factors are required.”

Dr. Swigost and Dr. Pasieka reported having no disclosures.

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