DMARDs not only improve the joint pain and swelling associated with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but also slow down the joint damage associated with the disease. The efficacy of biologic therapies, introduced in the past decade for the treatment of RA, has been unequivocally established. Similarly, in addition to traditional drugs such as hydroxychloroquine, new biologic agents such as rituximab have been introduced for systemic lupus erythematosus in recent years. However, considerable variability occurs in the responses of patients to these therapies. Pharmacogenetics, the study of variations in genes encoding drug transporters, drug-metabolizing enzymes and drug targets, and their translation to differential responses to drugs, is a rapidly progressing field in rheumatology. Pharmacogenetic applications, particularly to the old vanguard DMARD, methotrexate, and the newer, more expensive biologic agents, might make personalized therapy in rheumatic diseases possible. The pharmacogenetics of commonly used DMARDs and of biologic therapies are described in this Review.
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