The term ‘cocaine-induced pseudovasculitis' was coined to encompass a constellation of clinical and laboratory findings which mimics a systemic vasculitis but lacks confirmatory evidence of vasculitis on biopsy. Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies reacting with human neutrophil elastase (HNE) have been reported to distinguish the cocaine-related syndrome from a true autoimmune vasculitis. Published cases of retiform purpura related to cocaine use are rare and an etiologic role for levamisole, a common adulterant of cocaine, has been postulated. We describe two female patients aged 39 and 49 years with cocaine-related retiform purpura, mainly affecting the legs. The initial clinical and serological profile in case 1 led to a suspicion of anti-phospholipid syndrome and in case 2 to Wegener's granulomatosis with an unexplained associated neutropenia. Skin biopsies revealed a mixed pattern of leukocytoclastic vasculitis and microvascular thrombosis in case 1 and pure microvascular thrombosis in case 2. Identification of anti-HNE antibodies in both patients linked their disease to cocaine. The mixed vasculopathic pattern in case 1 and the associated neutropenia in case 2, both known adverse effects of levamisole, point to this as the true etiologic agent. Urine toxicology shortly after a binge of cocaine use in each case was positive for levamisole.
Walsh NMG, Green PJ, Burlingame RW, Pasternak S, Hanly JG. Cocaine-related retiform purpura: evidence to incriminate the adulterant, levamisole.