Causes of Scleroderma: Drugs and Medications

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
5HTP w/ Carbidopa
Bleomycin-Induced Scleroderma
Chemotherapy-induced Scleroderma
Cocaine-Induced Scleroderma
Collagen and Liquid Silicone Injections
Interferon Alpha
Marijuana and Raynaud's
Paclitaxel (Taxanes)


Some medications and street drugs are known to induce scleroderma or Raynaud's, including bleomycin, collagen injections, marijuana and cocaine.

5 Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in combination with Carbidopa

The supplement 5 Hydroxytryptophan (5HTP) should not be used alongside the Parkinsons drug carbidopa as it can cause skin changes similar to those that seen with the disease scleroderma. 5-HTP should not be combined with drugs that raise serotonin levels, for example SSRIs (e.g., Prozac), and other antidepressants. People with kidney disease or liver disease should consult their doctor before taking 5-HTP. Anti-Aging Library.

Bleomycin-Induced Scleroderma

Bleomycin: Role of Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1 and its Receptor,CCR-2, in the Pathogenesis of Bleomycin-Induced Scleroderma. Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 may contribute to the induction of dermal sclerosis via its direct effect of upregulation of mRNA expression of extracellular matrix on fibroblasts, as well as indirect effect mediated by a number of cytokines released from immunocytes recruited into the lesional skin. PubMed, J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Sep;121(3):510-6.

Chemotherapy-Induced Scleroderma

Chemotherapy-induced scleroderma: a pleiomorphic syndrome. We present the first case of diffuse scleroderma occurring in a woman treated with doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide for breast cancer. The clinical pattern of skin involvement and histological alterations were identical to those found in the classical form of scleroderma. PubMed, Clin Exp Dermatol. 2005 Mar;30(2):141-5. (Also see Cancer and Scleroderma and Diffuse Scleroderma)

Cocaine-Induced Scleroderma

Cocaine-Induced Scleroderma and Scleroderma Renal Crisis was reported in the Southern Medical Journal and the article may be available through Medscape. (1)

Collagen and Liquid Silicone Injections

Some physicians have reported that patients developed PM/DM and other connective tissue diseases after receiving collagen injections even though they never had these diseases before. FDA is investigating whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between having collagen treatments and later developing PM/DM or similar diseases. FDA, August 1991 (Also see Skin: Collagen)


Onset and enhancement of systemic sclerosis after treatments for multiple sclerosis. This case report shows that some form of treatment useful for MS might enhance the manifestations of SSc. (PubMed) Rheumatol Int. 2007 Dec 8.


Gemcitabine-associated scleroderma-like changes of the lower extremities. Gemcitabine is a nucleosid analog approved for use in the treatment of metastatic urothelial carcinoma of the bladder. This is the first case report of a scleroderma-like reaction associated with gemcitabine. This antineoplastic agent must be added to the very limited number of cytostatic agents capable of giving rise to scleroderma-like features. PubMed, J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004 Aug;51(2 Suppl):S73-6. (Also see Diseases Similar to Scleroderma)


Angioimmunoblastic T cell lymphoma with an unusual proliferation of epstein-barr virus-associated large B cells arising in a patient with progressive systemic sclerosis. The cause was suggested to be closely associated with immunosuppressive treatment for progressive systemic sclerosis. PubMed, Acta Haematol. 2005;114(2):108-12. (Also see Scleroderma and Cancer)

Interferon Alpha

A Targeted Treatment for Scleroderma? A monoclonal antibody that binds to the type 1 interferon-alpha receptor showed an acceptable safety profile in a phase I trial for systemic sclerosis, but efficacy was less clear. Med Page Today, 02/27/2014. (Also see Interferon-Alpha)


L-tryptophan and scleroderma: Significance of nutritional supplements containing L-tryptophan. Our hypothesis though conjectural, mainly aims to highlight the possibility that a drug (L-tryptophan) known to cause a particular illness is available as part of an over-the-counter nutritional supplement in India. This drug has been banned in some countries. Feroze K, Venkitakrishnan S, Manoj J.J Postgrad Med 2008;54:235-6.

Marijuana (Cannabis) and Raynaud's Phenomenon

Marijuana: A 24-year old woman, heavy cannabis smoker with progressive Raynaud's phenomenon and digital necrosis is presented. This observation demonstrates that cannabis may represent a possible cofactor in the pathogenesis of arteritis in young smokers. Early recognition is important to avoid irreversible complications such as loss of digits. PubMed, Vasa. 2003 May;32(2):95-7. (Also see Raynaud's Prevention and Digital Ulcers)

Paclitaxel (Taxanes) and Scleroderma

Interestingly, preliminary research in mice shows that the taxanes may be both a cause of scleroderma in high doses, as well as a potential cure, in lower doses.

Taxane-induced scleroderma. We report five women who presented with scleroderma due to taxanes, mimicking systemic sclerosis. All five patients had received taxane chemotherapy for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Although the mechanisms have not been clarified, it should be noted that taxane is causally involved in the formation of scleroderma-like skin conditions. PubMed, Br J Dermatol. 2007 Feb;156(2):363-7. (Also see Cancer and Scleroderma, and Diseases Similar to Scleroderma)

(Case Reports) Scleroderma and the taxanes. Is there really a link? In recent years there have been a number of case reports linking modern chemotherapy agents, such as the taxanes to the development of scleroderma like changes. PubMed, Clin Exp Dermatol.

Also see: Scleroderma and Related Conditions: Cancer and Causes of Scleroderma: Artificial Joints and Silicone Breast Implants

Go to Causes of Scleroderma: Mercury (Dental Amalgam)
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