Long term perhexiline maleate therapy causes peripheral neuropathy and hepatic damage in certain subjects. An association between these adverse reactions and a genetically determined relative inability to hydroxylate debrisoquine has been described. This association could indicate either that the effects of perhexiline impair debrisoquine oxidation thus producing a phenocopy, or that perhexiline is polymorphically hydroxylated and that the polymorphism is controlled by the same alleles as control the debrisoquine polymorphism. To test the second possibility, a study investigating the hydroxylation status of a population of healthy volunteer subjects has been performed using perhexiline maleate. Hydroxylation phenotyping was performed on 50 normal volunteers. A standard oral dose was given and plasma and urinary perhexiline, 4-monohydroxyperhexiline (MI metabolite), and 4'monohydroxyperhexiline (MIII metabolite) was measured. The 24-hour plasma perhexiline concentration, the 24-hour plasma MI metabolite concentration, and 12 to 24-hour urinary MI metabolite excretion were clearly bimodal, suggesting the existence of a polymorphism for perhexiline hydroxylation. Poor metabolisers represent 6% of the population studied. Known poor metabolisers of debrisoquine are also poor metabolisers of perhexiline, while known extensive metabolisers of debrisoquine are also extensive metabolisers of perhexiline, indicating that in white British subjects the hydroxylation polymorphism is under identical genetic control for both compounds. The poor metaboliser sub-group exhibited the highest plasma perhexiline levels. Perhexiline phenotyping separates the poor and extensive metaboliser phenotypes much more clearly than other tests and defines a sub-group at risk from perhexiline toxicity. Pretreatment phenotyping using this test, followed by exclusion of poor metabolisers from perhexiline therapy, should substantially reduce the incidence of major adverse effects.
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