Gender differences in pharmacokinetics

Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 1996 Apr-Jun;21(2):123-8. doi: 10.1007/BF03190260.


There is growing awareness that the underrepresentation of women in clinical trials and in particular in phase I studies may lead to incorrect handling of drugs. Despite the fact that investigations are not informed in a systematic way, there are a number of examples showing pharmacokinetic differences between gender. From the data actually presented, it can be concluded that the activity of CYP 3A4 activity as measured by elimination in vivo is higher in women compared to men. CYP isoenzymes other than CYP 3A4 seem to be more active in men than in woman, as are conjugation reactions, such as glucuronidation. The influence of changing hormonal levels during the lifetime of a woman has been looked at in some drugs but deserves further systematic investigation. The use of oral contraceptives can interfere with the metabolism of many drugs whereas, in pregnancy, the elimination of antiepileptics is increased which, without dose adjustment, leads to an increased number of seizures. The impacts of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) on the pharmacokinetics of concomitantly given drugs is an important issue, as HRT is increasingly used, but more research is needed in this field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A2 / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Male
  • Pharmacokinetics*
  • Protein Binding
  • Sex Factors
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A2
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2D6