What is drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis?

Certain medications can cause inflammation and scarring or fibrosis of the lungs. This usually affects older people.

Causes of drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis

Drugs that can cause pulmonary fibrosis include:

  • the antibiotic nitrofurantoin
  • anti-cancer drugs such as bleomycin
  • cardiac medications such as amiodarone and
  • biological therapies used for treating cancer and autoimmune diseases.

If you have pulmonary fibrosis, it is advisable to avoid these medications.

Drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis can be an idiosyncratic reaction. This means it may occur quickly after starting the drugs and is not associated with the dose of treatment.

Symptoms of drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis

The symptoms include cough and breathlessness. In some cases, drug-induced lung disease can be associated with fevers, fatigue and joint pains. Find more about pulmonary fibrosis and its symptoms.


You will be advised to stop taking the drug to help to prevent further damage to the lungs. You may also be prescribed immunosuppressive therapies such as steroids to help to reduce the body’s immune response to the medication. Oxygen therapy may be required if your oxygen levels are low.

Ongoing treatment

You’ll have regular appointments with your medical team to monitor your lung disease.

Outlook and prognosis

If drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis is diagnosed quickly and the drugs stopped, most people make a good recovery.

But if it is not identified early, drug-induced pulmonary fibrosis can progress and be life-limiting. The prognosis depends on the drug, the extent of pulmonary fibrosis and the overall health of the patient.

[fs-toc-omit] Other forms of pulmonary fibrosis

[fs-toc-omit] Get support

Join a support group in your area

It’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are now over 75 pulmonary fibrosis support groups around the country.

Support groups meet informally to share experiences, provide expert information and raise funds and awareness. Find a group near you.

Call our support line

APF runs an email and telephone support line offering information and advice about living with PF. Find out more.

Find us on social media

We have an active and supportive online community ready to welcome you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates, news and connections to our online community.

Watch videos of how other people cope day to day with PF.

Information provided by Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis (APF) is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It’s intended as general information only. APF is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for any loss or damage suffered by users resulting from the information published on actionpf.org.

Further information for carers:

Your essential caring guide (PDF)
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