Pharmacogenetics of hypersensitivity to abacavir: from PGx hypothesis to confirmation to clinical utility

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The hypersensitivity (HSR) to abacavir (ABC) pharmacogenetics (PGx) program represents the progression from an exploratory discovery to a validated biomarker. Within the program, two retrospective PGx studies were conducted to identify HIV-1 patients at increased risk for ABC HSR, a treatment-limiting and potentially life-threatening adverse event. A strong statistical association between the major histocompatibility complex allele, HLA-B*5701, and clinically diagnosed ABC HSR was identified but varied between racial populations. Subsequently, ABC skin patch testing was introduced as a research tool to supplement clinical case ascertainment. In a randomized, prospective study evaluating the clinical utility of HLA-B*5701 screening, avoidance of ABC in HLA-B*5701-positive patients significantly reduced clinically diagnosed ABC HSR and eliminated patch test-positive ABC HSR. Finally, a retrospective PGx study supports the generalizability of the association across races. Prospective HLA-B*5701 screening should greatly reduce the incidence of ABC HSR by identifying patients at high risk for ABC HSR before they are treated.

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