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J Clin Pharmacol. 2004 Oct;44(10):1083-105.

Differences in drug pharmacokinetics between East Asians and Caucasians and the role of genetic polymorphisms.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutics, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA.


Interethnic variability in pharmacokinetics can cause unexpected outcomes such as therapeutic failure, adverse effects, and toxicity in subjects of different ethnic origin undergoing medical treatment. It is important to realize that both genetic and environmental factors can lead to these differences among ethnic groups. The International Conference on Harmonization (ICH) published a guidance to facilitate the registration of drugs among ICH regions (European Union, Japan, the United States) by recommending a framework for evaluating the impact of ethnic factors on a drug's effect, as well as its efficacy and safety at a particular dosage and dosage regimen. This review focuses on the pharmacokinetic differences between East Asians and Caucasians. Differences in metabolism between East Asians and Caucasians are common, especially in the activity of several phase I enzymes such as CYP2D6 and the CYP2C subfamily. Before drug therapy, identification of either the genotype and/or the phenotype for these enzymes may be of therapeutic value, particularly for drugs with a narrow therapeutic index. Furthermore, these differences are relevant for international drug approval when regulatory agencies must decide if they accept results from clinical trials performed in other parts of the world.

Copyright 2004 American College of Clinical Pharmacology

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