Pharmacogenetics is the variability of drug response due to inherited characteristics in individuals. Drug metabolizing enzymes have been studied for decades, first as chemical reactions and, more recently, as specific polymorphisms of known molecules. With the availability of whole-genome single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) maps, it will soon be possible to create an SNP profile for patients who experience adverse events (AEs) or who respond clinically to the medicine (efficacy). Proof-of-principle experiments have demonstrated that high density SNP maps in chromosomal regions of genetic linkage facilitate the identification of susceptibility disease genes. Whole-genome SNP mapping analyses aimed at determining linkage disequilibrium (LD) profiles along an ordered human genome backbone are in progress. SNP 'fingerprints' or SNP PRINTs(sm) will be used to identify patients at greater risk of an AE, or those patients with a greater chance of responding to a medicine. As LD maps for various ethnic populations are constructed, the number of SNPs necessary to measure for an individual will decrease. Standardized pharmacogenetic maps for drug registration and post-marketing surveillance will result in safer, more effective and more cost-efficient medicines. The timing of these pharmacogenetic applications will occur over the next 5 years. In contrast, the benefits of pharmacogenomic applications such as the identification of new tractable targets will not be visible as new medicines for 7-12 years, due to the lengthy drug development and registration processes.