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Ethnicity may affect drug response

Different drugs can have different responses in different ethnic groups, according to a new study published in the Psychopharmacology Bulletin, a publication of the National Institute of Mental Health. In a study of 37 healthy volunteers, researchers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles found that the anti-depressant drug, desipramine, was metabolized much more quickly by Caucasians than by those of Asian extraction.

Edmond H. Pi, professor of clinical psychiatry at USC, and his colleagues found that the same dose of desipramine reached peak concentrations four hours earlier in the 19 Caucasians in the study than it did in the 18 Asian participants.

It also took the Caucasians less time to excrete the drug than it did for the Asians.

While ethnic differences have been reported in the way alcohol is metabolized, "only recently have the potential differences between ethnic groups been studied in a scientific manner," Pi said.

"It's important," he said, "to recognize that some people are slow metabolizers (of drugs) and may be at risk of increased side effects or toxicity. Slow (drug) metabolism is found among both Asians and Caucasians, but may be slightly more common in Asians."