Introduction: When a new drug enters the market, its full array of side effects remains to be defined. Current surveillance approaches targeting these effects remain largely reactive. There is a need for development of methods to predict specific safety events that should be sought for a given new drug during development and postmarketing activities.
Objective: We present here a safety signal identification approach applied to a new set of drug entities, inhibitors of the serine protease proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9).
Methods: Using phenome-wide association study (PheWAS) methods, we analyzed available genotype and clinical data from 29,722 patients, leveraging the known effects of changes in PCSK9 to identify novel phenotypes in which this protein and its inhibitors may have impact.
Results: PheWAS revealed a significantly reduced risk of hypercholesterolemia (odds ratio [OR] 0.68, p = 7.6 × 10-4) in association with a known loss-of-function variant in PCSK9, R46L. Similarly, laboratory data indicated significantly reduced beta mean low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (- 14.47 mg/dL, p = 2.58 × 10-23) in individuals carrying the R46L variant. The R46L variant was also associated with an increased risk of spina bifida (OR 5.90, p = 2.7 × 10-4), suggesting that further investigation of potential connections between inhibition of PCSK9 and neural tube defects may be warranted.
Conclusion: This novel methodology provides an opportunity to put in place new mechanisms to assess the safety and long-term tolerability of PCSK9 inhibitors specifically, and other new agents in general, as they move into human testing and expanded clinical use.