Drug transporters: their role and importance in the selection and development of new drugs

Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2002;17(2):93-108. doi: 10.2133/dmpk.17.93.


Drug transporters expressed in various tissues play a significant role in drug disposition. By regulating the function of such transporters, it may be possible to eventually develop drugs with ideal pharmacokinetic profiles. In this article, we summarize the significant role played by drug transporters in drug disposition, focusing particularly on their potential use during the drug development process. The ability to manipulate transporter function offers the opportunity of being able to deliver a drug to the target organ, avoiding distribution to other organs (thereby reducing the chance of toxic side-effects), controlling the elimination process, and/or improving oral bioavailability. During drug development, it would be very useful to be able to select a lead compound that may or may not interact with transporters, depending on whether such an interaction is desirable. The use of specific inhibitors of transporters is also an attractive approach to controlling drug disposition, leading to improved efficacy. Currently, optimizing the pharmacokinetic properties of a drug during the early stages of its development is widely accepted as being of great importance. High-throughput screening systems using transporter gene transfected cells or computational (in silico) approaches are efficient tools for assessing transport activity during the early stage of drug development. In addition, drug-drug interactions involving drug transporters and functional genetic polymorphisms of drug transporters are also described. It would also be extremely valuable to be able to quantitatively predict inter-individual pharmacokinetic differences caused by transporter polymorphisms or pharmacokinetic changes caused by drug-drug interactions involving transporters during drug development.