Relevance of assessing drug concentration exposure in pharmacogenetic and imaging studies

Francis E. Lotrich, Robert R. Bies, Gwenn S. Smith, Bruce G. Pollock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Pharmacodynamic differences are difficult to interpret without drug concentration data. In particular, variability in drug exposure may confound the interpretation of pharmacogenetic, therapeutic outcome, and neuroimaging studies. Inter-individual variability in concentrations can be quite high due to variable adherence and pharmacokinetics. For example, clearance may be influenced by genetics, drug interactions, age and illness. We review findings that acute responses to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can have a concentration-response relationship using positron emission tomography and neuroendocrine measures. We also present preliminary evidence that the concentration-response relationship for paroxetine is influenced by genotypic differences at the serotonin transporter promoter. In large clinical studies, the accurate assessment of drug exposure can be challenging, with several techniques used to assess exposure. Population pharmacokinetics (Pop PK) is a method that is ideally suited for analysing concentration data from large trials because both patient-specific and population parameters can be determined with only a small number of plasma samples per patient. As opposed to relying on prescribed doses or a single trough level, the ability to determine more accurately exposure with Pop PK reduces the heterogeneity introduced by exposure variability. Pop PK hierarchic Bayesian approaches have been effective for characterizing anticonvulsants, antibiotics, antineoplastics and antiarrhythmics. We have recently successfully incorporated these pop PK analyses into routine assessments of elderly patients in clinical trials of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and second generation antipsychotics. For the design and interpretation of neuroimaging, pharmacogenetic, and behavioural studies, the assessment of drug concentration exposure is therefore feasible and has potentially important ramifications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-40
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number4 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Concentration
  • Neuroimaging
  • Pharmacogenetics
  • Population pharmacokinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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