Reduction of adverse drug reaction (ADR) incidence through screening of predisposing human leucocyte antigen (HLA) alleles is a promising approach for many widely used drugs. However, application of these associations has been limited by the cost burden of HLA genotyping. Use of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that can approximate (‘tag’) HLA alleles of interest has been proposed as a cost-effective and simple alternative to conventional genotyping. However, most reported SNP tags have not been validated and there is concern regarding clinical utility of this approach due to tagging inconsistency across different populations. We assess the ability of 67 previously reported and 378 novel tagging SNPs, identified here in 5 HLA reference panels, to tag 15 ADR-associated HLA alleles in a panel of 955 ethnically diverse samples. Tags for 8 HLA alleles of interest were identified with 100% sensitivity and >95% specificity. These SNPs may act as a reliable genotyping approach for the routine screening of patients, without the need to account for patient ethnicity.