Benign ethnic neutropenia: an analysis of prevalence, timing and identification accuracy in two large inner-city NHS hospitals

Ebenezer Oloyede*, Olubanke Dzahini, Nigel Barnes, Aleksandar Mijovic, Shreyans Gandhi, Sara Stuart-Smith, Theo de Witte, David Taylor, Eromona Whiskey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Benign ethnic neutropenia (BEN) is the most common cause of chronic neutropenia seen in individuals of African, Middle Eastern and West Indian descent. This phenotype is broadly defined by an absolute neutrophil counts (ANC) below 1.8 × 109 cells/L in the absence of other causes, without an increased risk of infection. BEN has been implicated as a potential source of disparity in patients treated with clozapine, the antipsychotic of choice in treatment-resistant schizophrenia. Our main objective was to examine the current level of BEN recognition in a cohort of patients treated with clozapine and the potential impact of unidentified BEN on the initiation and maintenance of clozapine treatment. Methods: This was an observational, retrospective analysis of patients registered with clozapine haematological monitoring systems in two large mental health trusts, chosen because they serve an ethnically diverse population. The first objective was to establish certified BEN prevalence in current users of clozapine. The second objective was to explore the stage of treatment at which BEN was identified. The third objective was to evaluate the extent of unrecognised BEN in patients registered on the Central Non-Rechallenge Database (CNRD), a database for patients whose haematological parameters fall below set thresholds when receiving clozapine treatment, meaning they cannot ordinarily be prescribed clozapine again. Results: The study population comprised of 2020 patients on the clozapine register. 111 patients were monitored under BEN criteria. BEN was mostly identified after a below threshold haematological result or clozapine rechallenge (68%) compared to at clozapine initiation (32%). Eight of the 18 (42%) black patients registered on the CNRD were classified as BEN after assessment by a haematologist. Of these 8 patients, none would have met CNRD criteria again if monitored with BEN criteria at clozapine initiation. Conclusions: Current evidence suggests that BEN remains an uncommonly recognised haematological phenotype. Improved timely identification of BEN will reduce unnecessary interruption or discontinuation of clozapine treatment. Our results suggest consideration should also be given to determining BEN status prior to initiating clozapine. Moreover, adoption of current FDA BEN monitoring criteria in the UK may further reduce clozapine discontinuation due to perceived neutropenia as drug toxicity, particularly in treatment-refractory schizophrenia patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number502
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Benign ethnic neutropenia
  • Clozapine
  • CNRD


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