Drug disposition in three dimensions: an update on stereoselectivity in pharmacokinetics


  • Dion R. Brocks

    Corresponding author
    1. Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada
    • Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 3126 Dentistry/Pharmacy Centre, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2N8
    Search for more papers by this author


Many marketed drugs are chiral and are administered as the racemate, a 50:50 combination of two enantiomers. Pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic differences between enantiomers are well documented. Because of enantioselectivity in pharmacokinetics, results of in vitro pharmacodynamic studies involving enantiomers may differ from those in vivo where pharmacokinetic processes will proceed. With respect to pharmacokinetics, disparate plasma concentration vs time curves of enantiomers may result from the pharmacokinetic processes proceeding at different rates for the two enantiomers. At their foundation, pharmacokinetic processes may be enantioselective at the levels of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion. In some circumstances, one enantiomer can be chemically or biochemically inverted to its antipode in a unidirectional or bidirectional manner. Genetic consideration such as polymorphic drug metabolism and gender, and patient factors such as age, disease state and concomitant drug intake can all play a role in determining the relative plasma concentrations of the enantiomers of a racemic drug. The use of a nonstereoselective assay method for a racemic compound can lead to difficulties in interpretation of data from, for example, bioequivalence or dose/concentration vs effect assessments. In this review data from a number of representative studies involving pharmacokinetics of chiral drugs are presented and discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.