Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common problem worldwide, and it is recognized that the term encompasses overlapping sub-phenotypes of disease. The development of a sub-phenotype may be determined in part by an individual's genetics, which in turn may determine response to treatment. A growing understanding of the genetic factors that predispose to COPD and its sub-phenotypes and the pathophysiology of the condition is now leading to the suggestion of individualized therapy based on the patients' clinical phenotype and genotype. Pharmacogenetics is the study of variations in treatment response according to genotype and is perhaps the next direction for genetic research in COPD. Here, we consider how knowledge of the pathophysiology and genetic risk factors for COPD may inform future management strategies for affected individuals.