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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2001 Sep;24(3):523-38.

Culture and psychopharmacology.

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Research Center on the Psychobiology of Ethnicity, Department of Psychiatry, Harbor-University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center, Torrance, California, USA.


In this brief review the authors strive to provide a broad overview of various factors that impinge on psychopharmacotherapeutic practices. The literature revealed an impressive progress in research focusing on the delineation of the biologic mechanisms responsible for cross-ethnic variations in psychotropic metabolism and effects. With the field progressing at an accelerating pace, there is little doubt that in the coming decade clinicians will be provided with a detailed map showing the prevalence and distribution of genetic polymorphisms of most, if not all, of the drug-metabolizing enzymes, and clinicians also will have an overall picture on what these polymorphisms mean clinically. At the same time, clinicians should also start to have a good grasp on the meaning of the variations of the genes that encode therapeutic targets of psychotropics (e.g., neurotransmitter transporters and receptors). Such genetic fingerprinting, which will soon become a clinical reality, will provide tremendous help in ensuring that pharmacotherapies are increasingly more individually tailored, taking into consideration each patients genetic makeups that vary substantially across ethnic groups. As exciting as these new developments will be, they are dwarfed by the challenges ahead on the cultural side of the equation. Issues that are still awaiting further clarification include the following: How do we assess patients' beliefs and expectations related to psychotropic treatment? How do we minimize the communication gaps between patients and clinicians who are often from divergent sociocultural backgrounds? To what extent, and in what ways, do cultural (environmental) factors interact with biologic factors, and what might be the most efficient way to systematically assess such interactions? Data that have emerged in the past several decades clearly indicate the importance of culture and ethnicity in influencing patients' psychopharmacological response. It is expected that continuing progress in the near future will bring a better understanding on the way these cultural and biologic processes, separately and in interaction with each other, mediate treatment responses. Such knowledge will be crucial for the optimal pharmacotherapeutic care of for the majority of patients who will increasingly be of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds and will represent a significant contribution to the field of psychopharmacology as a whole.

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