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Racial disparities in the risk of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis as urate-lowering drug adverse events in the United States.



HLA-B*5801 allele carriage (a strong determinant of allopurinol hypersensitivity syndrome) varies substantially among races, which may lead to racial disparities in the risk of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) in the context of urate-lowering drug adverse events (ULDAEs). We examined this hypothesis in a large, racially diverse, and generalizable setting.


Using a database representative of US hospitalizations (2009-2013), we investigated the racial distribution of hospitalized SJS/TEN (principal discharge diagnosis) as ULDAEs (ICD-9-CM Classification of External Causes). Our reference groups included the US Census population, US allopurinol users, and ULDAE hospitalizations without SJS/TEN.


We identified 606 cases hospitalized for SJS/TEN as ULDAEs (mean age = 68 years; 44% male), among which there was an overrepresentation of Asians (27%) and Blacks (26%), and an underrepresentation of Whites (29%) and Hispanics (% too-low-to-report), compared with the US Census population (5%, 12%, 67%, and 15%, respectively). The hospitalization rate ratios for SJS/TEN among Asians, Blacks, and Whites were 11.9, 5.0, and 1.0 (referent), respectively. These associations persisted using other national referents. According to the NHANES 2009-2012, allopurinol constituted 96.8% of urate-lowering drug use, followed by probenecid (2.1%).


These national data indicate that Asians and Blacks have a substantially higher risk of SJS/TEN as ULDAEs than Whites (or Hispanics), correlating well with corresponding frequencies of HLA-B*5801 in the US population (i.e., 7.4%, 4%, 1%, and 1%, respectively). Given its market dominance and established association with SJS/TEN, our findings support the use of vigilance in these minorities when considering allopurinol.

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