CNS Spectrums

Review Articles

Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodinamics of psychotropic drugs: effect of sex

Donatella Marazzitia1 c1, Stefano Baronia1, Michela Picchettia1, Armando Piccinnia1, Marina Carlinia1, Elena Vatteronia1, Valentina Falaschia1, Amedeo Lombardia1 and Liliana Dell'Ossoa1

a1 Dipartimento di Psichiatria, Neurobiologia, Farmacologia e Biotecnologie, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy


Data on the specific effects of sex on pharmacokinetics, as well as tolerability, safety, and efficacy of psychotropic medications are still meager, mainly because only recently sex-related issues have attracted a certain degree of interest within the pharmacological domain. Therefore, with the present study, we aimed to provide a comprehensive review of the literature on this topic, through careful MEDLINE and PubMed searches of the years 1990–2012.

Generally, data on pharmacokinetics are more consistent and numerous than those on pharmacodynamics. Sex-related differences have been reported for several parameters that influence pharmacokinetics, such as gastric acidity, intestinal motility, body weight and composition, blood volume, liver enzymes (mainly the cytochrome P450), or renal excretion, which may alter plasma drug levels. Sex-related peculiarities may also account for a different sensitivity of men and women to side effects and toxicity of psychotropic drugs. Further, some differences in drug response, mainly to antipsychotics and antidepressants, have been described.

Further studies are, however, necessary to explore more thoroughly the impact of sex on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of psychotropic drugs, in order to reach the most appropriate and tailored prescription for each patient.

(Received October 03 2012)

(Accepted December 19 2012)

(Online publication February 04 2013)

Key words

  • Antipsychotics;
  • benzodiazepines;
  • gender;
  • psychotropic drugs;
  • SSRIs;
  • tricyclics


c1 Address for correspondence: Donatella Marazziti, MD, Dipartimento di Psichiatria, Neurobiologia, Farmacologia e Biotecnologie, University of Pisa, Via Roma 67, 56100 Pisa, Italy. (Email