Role of systems pharmacology in understanding drug adverse events

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Biol Med. 2011 Mar-Apr;3(2):129-35. doi: 10.1002/wsbm.114. Epub 2010 Aug 27.


Systems pharmacology involves the application of systems biology approaches, combining large-scale experimental studies with computational analyses, to the study of drugs, drug targets, and drug effects. Many of these initial studies have focused on identifying new drug targets, new uses of known drugs, and systems-level properties of existing drugs. This review focuses on systems pharmacology studies that aim to better understand drug side effects and adverse events. By studying the drugs in the context of cellular networks, these studies provide insights into adverse events caused by off-targets of drugs as well as adverse events-mediated complex network responses. This allows rapid identification of biomarkers for side effect susceptibility. In this way, systems pharmacology will lead to not only newer and more effective therapies, but safer medications with fewer side effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacology*
  • Systems Biology*