In vivo age-related changes in hepatic drug-oxidizing capacity in humans

J Clin Pharm Ther. 1998 Aug;23(4):247-55. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2710.1998.00164.x.


Very few studies have been carried out looking at how the effects of drugs and their toxicity in humans change during their lifespan (developing and ageing). The purpose of this study is to review the literature on the changes in probe-drug metabolism, classified by cytochrome P450 (P450 or CYP) at five stages in life: neonates < 4 weeks, infants < 12 months, children < 19 years, young/mature adults 20-64 years, and elderly adults > 65 years. The main probe drugs include caffeine and theophylline, whose metabolism is catalysed by CYP1A2, tolbutamide, phenytoin and ibuprofen, catalysed by CYP2C9, amitriptyline and nortriptyline, catalysed by CYP2C19, acetaminophen, catalysed by CYP2E1 and lidocaine, midazolam and terfenadine, catalysed by 3A3/4. From the published in vivo studies two different patterns of drug metabolism can be identified: (i) activity is low immediately after birth, increases, then peaks at the young/mature adult level and, finally, decreases in old age (drugs catalysed by CYP1A2, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2D6 and CYP3A3/4) and (ii) activity increases rapidly after birth to reach a level equivalent to that in the young/mature adult, then gradually decreases and finally decreasing faster in old age (drugs catalysed by CYP2E1). Further study of the changes in P450 with age is warranted to help prevent adverse reactions and to guide us in tailoring therapy better for the individual patient.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isomerism


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System