Pharmacogenetics of Idiosyncratic Adverse Drug Reactions

  • Munir PirmohamedEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 196)


Idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions are unpredictable and thought to have an underlying genetic etiology. With the completion of the human genome and HapMap projects, together with the rapid advances in genotyping technologies, we have unprecedented capabilities in identifying genetic predisposing factors for these relatively rare, but serious, reactions. The main roadblock to this is the lack of sufficient numbers of well-characterized samples from patients with such reactions. This is now beginning to be solved through the formation of international consortia, including developing novel ways of identifying and recruiting patients affected by these reactions, both prospectively and retrospectively. This has been led by the research on abacavir hypersensitivity - its association with HLA-B*5701 forms the gold standard of how we need to identify associations and implement them in clinical practice. Strong genetic predisposing factors have also been identified for hypersensitivity reactions such as are associated with carbamazepine, allopurinol, flucloxacillin, and statin-induced myopathy. However, for most other idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions, the genetic effect sizes have been low to moderate, although this may partly be due to the fact that only small numbers have been investigated and limited genotyping strategies have been utilized. It may also indicate that genetic predisposition will be dependent on multiple genes, with complex interactions with environmental factors. Irrespective of the strength of the genetic associations identified with individual idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions, it is important to undertake functional investigations to provide insights into the mechanism(s) of how the drug interacts with the gene variant to lead to a phenotype, which can take a multitude of clinical forms with variable severity. Such investigations will be essential in preventing the burden caused by idiosyncratic reactions, both in healthcare and in industry.


Hypersensitivity Pharmacogenetics Drugs HLA Polymorphisms 



The author receives funding from the UK Dept of Health (NHS Chair of Pharmacogenetics program), MRC, and Wellcome Trust.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science, Department of Pharmacology and TherapeuticsThe University of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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