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The Impact of Drug Transporters on Pharmacokinetics and Drug Interactions

Mai Nasr*

Department of Pharmaceutics and Industrial Pharmacy, Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt

*Corresponding Author:
Mai Nasr
Department of Pharmaceutics and Industrial Pharmacy,
Ain Shams University, Cairo,

Received: 27-Nov-2023, Manuscript No. DD-23-118863; Editor assigned: 29-Nov-2023, Pre QC No. DD-23-118863 (PQ); Reviewed: 13-Dec-2023, QC No. DD-23-118863; Revised: 20-Dec-2023, Manuscript No. DD-23-118863(R); Published: 28-Dec-2023, DOI:10.4172/resrevdrugdeliv.7.4.006

Citation: Nasr M. The Impact of Drug Transporters on Pharmacokinetics and Drug Interactions. Res Rev Drug Deliv. 2023;7:006.

Copyright: © 2023 Nasr M. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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About the Study

In the ever-evolving world of pharmaceutical research, one aspect that stands as a formidable challenge is the efficient delivery of therapeutic agents to their intended targets within the human body. The process of travel is complicated, and the body's security mechanisms frequently serve as strong monitors, preventing outsiders from entering. In this article, we will delve into the intricate world of drug transporters, the molecular gatekeepers that influence drug pharmacokinetics, efficacy, and potential for adverse effects. From their discovery to their remarkable impact on modern medicine, we will explore the vital role of drug transporters in shaping the future of drug delivery.

The discovery of drug transporters

The story of drug transporters begins with their discovery, an innovative moment in pharmacology that changed the landscape of drug development. Researchers were unable to identify the specific proteins that carry medications across cellular membranes until the second part of the 20th century. The first transporter, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), was discovered in 1976, and its role in drug resistance quickly became evident, sparking immense interest in the field.

These transporters, often referred to as efflux pumps, were initially identified in the context of cancer treatment. They were found to actively extrude anticancer drugs from cancer cells, rendering the treatments less effective. The main offender was P-gp, a transporter superfamily member of the ATP-Binding Cassette (ABC) family. The discovery of P-gp paved the way for research into other drug transporters, which were subsequently found to influence the disposition of a wide range of drugs, not limited to anticancer agents.

Mechanisms of drug transport

At the heart of drug transporters' functionality lies their ability to facilitate or inhibit the passage of drugs across cellular membranes. This process can be broadly categorized into two mechanisms: Influx transporters and efflux transporters.

Influx transporters, such as Organic Cation Transporters (OCTs) and Organic Anion Transporters (OATs), mediate the uptake of drugs into cells. These transporters are instrumental in the transport of essential endogenous compounds and play a crucial role in drug absorption, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract and renal tubules.

Efflux transporters, on the other hand, are responsible for pumping drugs out of cells, reducing their intracellular concentration and thus their therapeutic effect. In addition to P-gp, which has been the subject of intense scrutiny, other significant efflux transporters include Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins (MRPs) and Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (BCRP). These efflux transporters can pose significant challenges for drug efficacy and drug-drug interactions.

Impact on pharmacokinetics and drug interactions

The presence of drug transporters has profound implications for pharmacokinetics, influencing the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs within the body. Drug-Drug Interactions (DDIs) are a major concern in clinical practice, and drug transporters play a central role in mediating these interactions. For example, a drug that is a substrate for the same efflux transporter as another drug may compete for transport, potentially leading to increased intracellular concentrations of one or both drugs. In some cases, this can result in adverse effects or altered therapeutic outcomes.

Additionally, transporters can impact the distribution of drugs in the body. The blood-brain barrier and placental barrier, both equipped with specific transporters, can limit or enhance the delivery of drugs to their target sites. Understanding the role of transporters in these physiological barriers is crucial for designing effective therapies for conditions such as neurological disorders and pregnancy-related complications.

Clinical implications and personalized medicine

The expanding field of personalized medicine leverages our understanding of drug transporters to optimize therapy for individual patients. Genetic variations in transporter genes can lead to significant inter-individual differences in drug response and susceptibility to adverse effects.

Pharmacogenomics, the study of how genetic variations impact drug response, has illuminated the importance of transporters in personalized medicine. For example, certain polymorphisms in the SLCO1B1 gene, which codes for an organic anion-transporting polypeptide, have been linked to statin-induced myopathy. These genetic insights have led to the development of dosing recommendations tailored to an individual's genetic profile.

Future directions and therapeutic potential

The intricate world of drug transporters is far from being fully understood, and on-going research continues to reveal new facets of their role in drug delivery. The potential to make use of these transporters to improve drug delivery and reduce adverse effects is a tantalizing prospect.

One area of exploration is the development of transporter-targeted therapies. By designing drugs that specifically interact with transporters, researchers aim to enhance drug delivery to target tissues while avoiding undesirable off-target effects. This approach has shown promise in the treatment of neurological disorders, where the blood-brain barrier poses a significant challenge.


Drug transporters are the lesser known of modern medicine, gradually advance the field of drug delivery and influencing patient outcomes in ways we are only beginning to comprehend. Their discovery and elucidation of their mechanisms have opened up exciting possibilities for improving drug efficacy, reducing adverse effects, and advancing the era of personalized medicine. As our understanding of drug transporters deepens, we anticipate the development of novel therapies that leverage these molecular gatekeepers to precisely deliver drugs to their intended destinations.