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Overview of Pharmacokinetics

By

Jennifer Le

, PharmD, MAS, BCPS-ID, FIDSA, FCCP, FCSHP, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California San Diego

Last full review/revision Oct 2020
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Other factors are related to individual physiology. The effects of some individual factors (eg, renal failure, obesity, hepatic failure, dehydration) can be reasonably predicted, but other factors are idiosyncratic and thus have unpredictable effects. Because of individual differences, drug administration must be based on each patient’s needs—traditionally, by empirically adjusting dosage until the therapeutic objective is met. This approach is frequently inadequate because it can delay optimal response or result in adverse effects.

Knowledge of pharmacokinetic principles helps prescribers adjust dosage more accurately and rapidly. Application of pharmacokinetic principles to individualize pharmacotherapy is termed therapeutic drug monitoring.

Comparison of pharmacokinetic outcomes for diazepam in a younger man (A) and an older man (B)

Diazepam is metabolized in the liver to desmethyldiazepam through P-450 enzymes. Desmethyldiazepam is an active sedative, which is excreted by the kidneys. 0 = time of dosing. (Adapted from Greenblatt DJ, Allen MD, Harmatz JS, Shader RI: Diazepam disposition determinants. 27:301–312, 1980.)

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