Volume 60, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Agranulocytosis, a syndrome characterized by a marked reduction in circulating granulocytes, is strongly associated with medical drug use in Europe and the United States. Unregulated use of common pharmaceutical agents in developing countries has been suspected of causing large numbers of cases of agranulocytosis and deaths, especially among children. To elucidate the incidence and etiology of agranulocytosis in Thailand, a population-based case-control study of symptomatic agranulocytosis that resulted in hospital admission was conducted in Bangkok from 1990 to 1994. An attempt was also made to study the disease in Khonkaen (in northeastern Thailand) and Songkla (in southern Thailand), but there were insufficient cases in the latter regions, and the analysis was confined to subjects from Bangkok. In that region, the overall incidence of agranulocytosis was 0.8 per million per year; there were no deaths. As expected, the incidence was higher in females (0.9 per million), and it increased with age (4.3 per million beyond age 60). Among 25 cases and 529 controls the relative risk estimate for a combined category of all suspect drugs was 9.2 (95% confidence interval = 3.9-21), and the proportion of cases that could be attributed to drug use was 68%. For individual drugs and drug classes the data were sparse; within these limitations, the strongest association appeared to be with antithyroid drugs. One case and three controls were exposed to dipyrone, a drug known to cause agranulocytosis; with such scanty data the risk could not be evaluated. Exposure to pesticides or solvents was not associated with an increased risk. This is the first formal epidemiologic study of agranulocytosis in a developing country. As in the West, most cases are attributable to medical drug use. However, the incidence of agranulocytosis in Bangkok, and apparently, in Thailand as a whole, is unusually low, and the disease does not pose a public health risk.


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