AIMS: Ketamine analgesia is limited by low intrinsic efficacy compounded by large interindividual variability in drug responses, possibly due to the heterogeneity in drug concentration. The CYP2B6*6 allele is associated with substantially reduced ketamine metabolism in vitro and, therefore, may affect ketamine clearance. Our aims were to examine the impact of the CYP2B6*6 allele on ketamine plasma clearance and on adverse effects in chronic pain patients. METHODS: CYP2B6 genotypes were identified in 49 chronic pain patients who received 24 h continuous subcutaneous infusions of ketamine. Steady-state plasma concentrations of ketamine (Css,k ) and norketamine (Css,nk ) were determined using HPLC. RESULTS: The median plasma clearance of ketamine after 100 mg 24 h(-1) dose was significantly lower in patients with the CYP2B6*6/*6 (21.6 l h(-1) ) and CYP2B6*1/*6 (40.6 l h(-1) ) genotypes compared with patients with the CYP2B6*1/*1 genotype (68.1 l h(-1) , P <0.001). The ketamine : norketamine plasma metabolic ratio was significantly higher in patients with the CYP2B6*6/*6 genotype than in those with the CYP2B6*1/*6 and the CYP2B6*1/*1 genotypes (P <0.001). Patients who experienced adverse effects had lower plasma clearance (45.6 l h(-1) ) than those who did not (52.6 l h(-1) , P = 0.04). The CYP2B6*6 genotype and age, and their combined impact explained 40 , 30 and 60 of the variation in Css,k , respectively. Similar results were observed after higher doses. CONCLUSIONS: The CYP2B6*6 allele is associated with a substantial decrease in steady-state ketamine plasma clearance in chronic pain patients. The decreased clearance and resultant higher plasma concentrations may be associated with a higher incidence of ketamine adverse effects.