Sex differences in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2009;48(3):143-57. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200948030-00001.


Significant differences that exist between the sexes affect the prevalence, incidence and severity of a broad range of diseases and conditions. Men and women also differ in their response to drug treatment. It is therefore essential to understand these reactions in order to appropriately conduct risk assessment and to design safe and effective treatments. Even from that modest perspective, how and when we use drugs can result in unwanted and unexpected outcomes. This review summarizes the sex-based differences that impact on pharmacokinetics, and includes a general comparison of clinical pharmacology as it applies to men, women and pregnant women. Sex-related or pregnancy-induced changes in drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination, when significant, may guide changes in dosage regimen or therapeutic monitoring to increase its effectiveness or reduce potential toxicity. Given those parameters, and our knowledge of sex differences, we can derive essentially all factors necessary for therapeutic optimization. Since this is a rapidly evolving area, it is essential for the practitioner to review drug prescribing information and recent literature in order to fully understand the impact of these differences on clinical therapeutics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Availability
  • Body Fat Distribution
  • Body Weight
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / metabolism
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics*
  • Pharmacology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sex Factors
  • Tissue Distribution
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations