Pharmacogenomics and COVID-19: clinical implications of human genome interactions with repurposed drugs

Pharmacogenomics J. 2021 Jun;21(3):275-284. doi: 10.1038/s41397-021-00209-9. Epub 2021 Feb 4.


The outbreak of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has evolved into an emergent global pandemic. Many drugs without established efficacy are being used to treat COVID-19 patients either as an offlabel/compassionate use or as a clinical trial. Although drug repurposing is an attractive approach with reduced time and cost, there is a need to make predictions on success before the start of therapy. For the optimum use of these repurposed drugs, many factors should be considered such as drug-gene or dug-drug interactions, drug toxicity, and patient co-morbidity. There is limited data on the pharmacogenomics of these agents and this may constitute an obstacle for successful COVID-19 therapy. This article reviewed the available human genome interactions with some promising repurposed drugs for COVID-19 management. These drugs include chloroquine (CQ), hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), azithromycin, lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r), atazanavir (ATV), favipiravir (FVP), nevirapine (NVP), efavirenz (EFV), oseltamivir, remdesivir, anakinra, tocilizumab (TCZ), eculizumab, heme oxygenase 1 (HO-1) regulators, renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) inhibitors, ivermectin, and nitazoxanide. Drug-gene variant pairs that may alter the therapeutic outcomes in COVID-19 patients are presented. The major drug variant pairs that associated with variations in clinical efficacy include CQ/HCQ (CYP2C8, CYP2D6, ACE2, and HO-1); azithromycin (ABCB1); LPV/r (SLCO1B1, ABCB1, ABCC2 and CYP3A); NVP (ABCC10); oseltamivir (CES1 and ABCB1); remdesivir (CYP2C8, CYP2D6, CYP3A4, and OATP1B1); anakinra (IL-1a); and TCZ (IL6R and FCGR3A). The major drug variant pairs that associated with variations in adverse effects include CQ/HCQ (G6PD; hemolysis and ABCA4; retinopathy), ATV (MDR1 and UGT1A1*28; hyperbilirubinemia; and APOA5; dyslipidemia), NVP (HLA-DRB1*01, HLA-B*3505 and CYP2B6; skin rash and MDR1; hepatotoxicity), and EFV (CYP2B6; depression and suicidal tendencies).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage*
  • COVID-19 / genetics*
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Drug Repositioning / methods*
  • Drug Repositioning / trends
  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2
  • Pharmacogenetics / methods*
  • Pharmacogenetics / trends


  • ABCC2 protein, human
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Protein 2