Pharmacogenetics: data, concepts and tools to improve drug discovery and drug treatment

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Feb;64(2):133-57. doi: 10.1007/s00228-007-0424-z. Epub 2008 Jan 26.


Variation in the human genome is a most important cause of variable response to drugs and other xenobiotics. Susceptibility to almost all diseases is determined to some extent by genetic variation. Driven by the advances in molecular biology, pharmacogenetics has evolved within the past 40 years from a niche discipline to a major driving force of clinical pharmacology, and it is currently one of the most actively pursued disciplines in applied biomedical research in general. Nowadays we can assess more than 1,000,000 polymorphisms or the expression of more than 25,000 genes in each participant of a clinical study -- at affordable costs. This has not yet significantly changed common therapeutic practices, but a number of physicians are starting to consider polymorphisms, such as those in CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6, TPMT and VKORC1, in daily medical practice. More obviously, pharmacogenetics has changed the practices and requirements in preclinical and clinical drug research; large clinical trials without a pharmacogenomic add-on appear to have become the minority. This review is about how the discipline of pharmacogenetics has evolved from the analysis of single proteins to current approaches involving the broad analyses of the entire genome and of all mRNA species or all metabolites and other approaches aimed at trying to understand the entire biological system. Pharmacogenetics and genomics are becoming substantially integrated fields of the profession of clinical pharmacology, and education in the relevant methods, knowledge and concepts form an indispensable part of the clinical pharmacology curriculum and the professional life of pharmacologists from early drug discovery to pharmacovigilance.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Design*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacogenetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic