May 12, 2009 – Drugs that contain the pharmacologically active ingredient allopurinol are commonly prescribed for the treatment of gout, hyperuricemia, and Lesch Nyhan Syndrome. They are frequently the cause of severe cutaneous adverse reactions (SCAR), which include drug hypersensitivity syndromes such as Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). So far, these adverse events are unpredictable and they carry significant morbidity and mortality.
In recent years, pharmacogenetic case-control association studies have been carried out in order to identify genetic markers for allopurinol-induced SCAR. For example, in one large study in Han Chinese which enrolled 51 patients with allopuriol-induces SCAR and 228 control individuals (135 allopurinol-tolerant subjects and 93 healthy subjects from the general population), genotyping for 823 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in genes related to drug metabolism and immune response was performed. The HLA-B*5801 allele was present in all (100%) of the 51 patients with allopurinol-induced SCAR, but only in 20 (15%) of the 135 allopurinol-tolerant individuals, giving rise to an odds ratio of 580 at the 95% confidence interval level (CI (95%), 34 to 978), and in 19 (20%) of the 93 healthy individuals, giving rise to an odds ratio of 494 (at 95% CI, 23 to 665).
These results indicate that the HLA-B*5801 allele is an important genetic risk factor for allopurinol-induced SCAR, at least in an extended ethnic group such as the Han Chinese. In this study, the HLA alleles A*3303, Cw*0302, and DRB1*0301 were in linkage disequilibrium and formed and extended risk haplotype in combination with the HLA-B*5801 allele.
A strong association of the HLA-B*1502 allele with Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrosis (TEN), induced by drugs that contain the pharmacologically active ingredient carbamazepine, or by drugs that contain the pharmacologically active ingredients phenytoin or fosphenytoin, has previously been recognized. Moreover, cutaneous hypersensitivity reactions to HIV-combating drugs that contain the active ingredient abacavir, are strongly associated with the HLA-B*5701 allele. Taken together, these data suggest that HLA-B alleles and/or other genetic polymorphisms in the MHC region might play a major role in the pathogenesis of immune-mediated drug-induced SCAR. A specific HLA-B molecule may function as antigenic presentation of certain drugs or their metabolites for HLA-restricted T cell activation.
It is interesting to note that the HLA-B*1502 allele and the HLA-B*5701 allele occur at high frequency in populations of Asian ancestry as does the HLA-B*5801 allele in Han Chinese. This puts patients belonging to these ethnic groups at high risk for the development of SJS and/or TEN when exposed to drugs containing the pharmacologically active ingredients allopurinol, carbamazepine, phenytoin, fosphenytoin, and abacavir. In fact, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that patients be genotyped for the HLA-B*1502 and the HLA-B*5701 allele, respectively, before therapies with carbamazepine and abacavir are initiated, and that carriers of these alleles should not be started on these drug unless the expected benefit clearly outweighs the risks.
A similar recommendation by the FDA for testing for the HLA-B*5801 allele before initiation of therapies with allopurinol-containing drugs has not yet been added to the labels of the according drugs. Nevertheless, it might be wise to discuss with your treating physician the testing for the HLA-B*5801 allele before starting a therapy on allopurinol if you are a patient of Han Chinese ancestry .
In the US, allopurinol-containg drugs are on the market as Allopurinol, Aloprim, Lopurin, and Zyloprim. Please find the newest drug labels for drugs containing allopurinol, carbamazepine, phenytoin, fosphenytoin, or abacavir at Drugs@FDA. Also, read more on the HLA-B*5801 allele.