Biologic and molecular mechanisms for sex differences in pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and pharmacogenetics: Part II

J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2002 Sep;11(7):617-29. doi: 10.1089/152460902760360568.


There are specific pharmacology issues related to women's unique physiology, including the hormonal changes that occur throughout their life span. Studies have shown alterations in drug metabolism in relation to phase of menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, or after menopause. In the brain, hormones can alter the response to drugs through various mechanisms. Estrogen and other compounds can bind to the estrogen receptor and modulate a wide range of activities within the cell. In addition, animal studies have demonstrated sexual dimorphism in the brain in terms of both the type of response to estrogen and the response as related to timing of administration. Many normal physiological changes that occur during pregnancy can affect pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. These changes during pregnancy are dramatic rises in levels of estrogen and progesterone, increases in maternal blood volume, altered protein binding resulting from a drop in albumin levels, and a rise in levels of other plasma proteins. The field of chronobiology offers a way to study these changes in biological functions. Chronopharmacology is the study of how biological rhythms, particularly 24-hour, menstrual cycle, and annual rhythms, impact the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs as a function of their timing. Chronopharmacokinetics is the study of the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination of medicines according to the time of day, menstrual cycle, or year. In addition to applying chronobiology to the study of drugs used in women, new technologies were addressed from computer modeling, pharmacogenetics (genetics of the response to drugs), and in vivo drug metabolism studies.

Publication types

  • Congress
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronobiology Phenomena
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Pharmacology, Clinical*
  • Sex Factors*
  • United States
  • Women's Health*