PHARMACOGENOMICS: The Inherited Basis for Interindividual Differences in Drug Response

Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
Vol. 2: 9-39 (Volume publication date September 2001)

PHARMACOGENOMICS: The Inherited Basis for Interindividual Differences in Drug Response

William E. Evans1 and ­ Julie A. Johnson2 ­

Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 1St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105; e-mail:

University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38163

2University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32610-0486; e-mail:

Abstract  It is well recognized that most medications exhibit wide interpatient variability in their efficacy and toxicity. For many medications, these interindividual differences are due in part to polymorphisms in genes encoding drug metabolizing enzymes, drug transporters, and/or drug targets (e.g., receptors, enzymes). Pharmacogenomics is a burgeoning field aimed at elucidating the genetic basis for differences in drug efficacy and toxicity, and it uses genome-wide approaches to identify the network of genes that govern an individual’s response to drug therapy. For some genetic polymorphisms (e.g., thiopurine S-methyltransferase), monogenic traits have a marked effect on pharmacokinetics (e.g., drug metabolism), such that individuals who inherit an enzyme deficiency must be treated with markedly different doses of the affected medications (e.g., 5%–10% of the standard thiopurine dose). Likewise, polymorphisms in drug targets (e.g., beta adrenergic receptor) can alter the sensitivity of patients to treatment (e.g., beta-agonists), changing the pharmacodynamics of drug response. Recognizing that most drug effects are determined by the interplay of several gene products that govern the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of medications, pharmacogenomics research aims to elucidate these polygenic determinants of drug effects. The ultimate goal is to provide new strategies for optimizing drug therapy based on each patient’s genetic determinants of drug efficacy and toxicity. This chapter provides an overview of the current pharmacogenomics literature and offers insights for the potential impact of this field on the safe and effective use of medications.

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