Ethnic or racial differences revisited: impact of dosage regimen and dosage form on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2006;45(10):957-64. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200645100-00001.


Ethnic or racial differences in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics have been attributed to the distinctions in the genetic, physiological and pathological factors between ethnic/racial groups. These pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic differences are also known to be influenced by several extrinsic factors such as socioeconomic background, culture, diet and environment. However, it is noted that other factors related to dosage regimen and dosage form have largely been ignored or overlooked when conducting or analysing pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic studies in relation to ethnicity/race. Potential interactions can arise between the characteristics of ethnicity/race and a unique feature of dosage regimen or dosage form used in the study, which may partly account for the observed pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic differences between ethnic/racial groups. Ethnic/racial differences in pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics can occur from drug administration through a specific route that imparts distinct pattern of absorption, distribution, transport, metabolism or excretion. For example, racial differences in the first-pass metabolism of a drug following oral administration may not be relevant when the drug is applied to the skin. On the other hand, ethnic/racial difference in pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics can also happen via two different routes of drug delivery, with varying levels of dissimilarity between routes. For example, greater ethnic/racial differences were observed in oral clearance than in systemic clearance of some drugs, which might be explained by the pre-systemic factors involved in the oral administration as opposed to the intravenous administration. Similarly, changes in the dose frequency and/or duration may have profound impact on the ethnic/racial differences in pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic outcome. Saturation of enzymes, transporters or receptors at high drug concentrations is a possible reason for many observed ethnic/racial discrepancies between single- and multiple-dose regimens, or between low- and high-dose administrations. The presence of genetic polymorphism of enzymes and/or transporters can further complicate the analysis of pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic data in ethnic/racial populations. Even within the same dosage regimen, the use of different dosage forms may trigger significantly different pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic responses in various ethnic/racial groups, given that different dosage forms may exhibit different rates of drug release, may release the drug at different sites, and/or have different retention times at specific sites of the body. It is thus cautioned that the pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic data obtained from different ethnic/racial groups cannot be indiscriminately compared or combined for analysis if there is a lack of homogeneity in the apparent 'extrinsic' factors, including dosage regimen and dosage form.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Ethnicity*
  • Humans
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Pharmacokinetics*
  • Pharmacology*
  • Racial Groups*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations