Pulmonary fibrosis

Drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis

Any medication can have side effects; some medicines can damage the lungs and cause pulmonary fibrosis.

You and your doctor have to weigh up the risks and benefits before you start a medicine. Sometimes the choices are difficult, especially when it’s a life-saving treatment.

Some of the commoner medication types that are known to carry the risk of pulmonary fibrosis include certain:

  • cancer chemotherapy drugs
  • drugs for heart conditions, particularly amiodarone
  • immunosuppressant drugs such as methotrexate
  • antibiotics, particularly nitrofurantoin
  • biological agents, used to treat cancer or immune disorders

Some recreational drugs can also cause pulmonary fibrosis.

The situation varies for each individual and for each drug. Breathing problems from drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis can come on suddenly, or develop more slowly over time.

If a drug has caused the fibrosis, people often get better quickly if the medication is stopped before much damage is done. So identifying this problem, and stopping the drug is the key intervention. Unfortunately, some people have lasting lung damage.

Treatment

Your doctor will stop you taking the drug causing fibrosis. Steroid medication can help calm down your body’s response to the medication.

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Last medically reviewed: August 2016. Due for review: August 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.