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Pharmacokinetics And Pharmacodynamics Of Commonly Used Drugs

Uncover the fascinating interplay between the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of commonly prescribed medications, and how they interact with the body's molecular targets.

USMLE Guide for pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of Commonly Used Drugs


This guide aims to provide an overview of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of commonly used drugs. Understanding these concepts is crucial for medical professionals, especially for those preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).


  1. Absorption:
    • Definition: The process by which a drug enters the bloodstream from the site of administration.
    • Factors influencing absorption: Route of administration, drug formulation, and patient characteristics.
    • Common routes of administration: Oral, intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous, transdermal, and inhalation.
  2. Distribution:
    • Definition: The process by which a drug is transported from the bloodstream to body tissues.
    • Factors influencing distribution: Drug properties (e.g., molecular weight, lipophilicity), blood flow to tissues, and protein binding.
    • Drug distribution examples: volume of distribution (Vd), which is the theoretical volume required to account for the total amount of drug in the body at the same concentration as in the plasma.
  3. Metabolism:
    • Definition: The enzymatic conversion of a drug into metabolites, primarily occurring in the liver.
    • Significance of metabolism: Active drugs may be transformed into inactive metabolites or into active metabolites. Some drugs require metabolism for therapeutic effects, while others may be toxified.
    • Examples of hepatic metabolism: cytochrome p450 enzymes, phase I reactions (e.g., oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis), and phase II reactions (e.g., conjugation).
  4. Excretion:
    • Definition: The elimination of drugs and their metabolites from the body, primarily through the kidneys.
    • Importance of renal excretion: Drugs that are renally excreted require dose adjustments in patients with impaired renal function.
    • Key parameters: Clearance (CL) and half-life (t1/2).


  1. Definition: The study of the biochemical and physiological effects of drugs on the body and their mechanisms of action.
  2. Drug-receptor interactions:
    • Receptors: Proteins with which drugs interact to produce their effects.
    • Agonists: Drugs that bind to a receptor and produce a response.
    • Antagonists: Drugs that bind to a receptor but do not produce a response, blocking the receptor from being activated by other substances.
    • Affinity: The attraction between a drug and its receptor.
    • Efficacy: The ability of a drug to produce a maximum response.
  3. Dose-response relationship:
    • Maximal efficacy: The maximum response that can be produced by a drug.
    • Potency: The amount of drug required to produce a specific effect.
    • Therapeutic index (TI): The ratio of a drug's toxic dose to its therapeutic dose.
  4. Pharmacogenomics:
    • Definition: The study of how an individual's genetic makeup influences drug response.
    • Examples: Genetic polymorphisms in drug-metabolizing enzymes (e.g., CYP450), drug transporters, and drug receptors can affect drug efficacy and safety.
    • Clinical implications: Pharmacogenomic testing can help guide drug selection and dosing to optimize therapeutic outcomes and minimize adverse effects.


Understanding the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of commonly used drugs is essential for medical professionals. This USMLE guide provides a comprehensive overview of these concepts, including drug absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, drug-receptor interactions, dose-response relationships, and pharmacogenomics.

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