Precision Medicine and Pharmacogenomics

Precision Medicine and Pharmacogenomics

By Noa L., VP Business Development, Vaica

Olivia R. Van Wyck, contributor

Have you ever thought that your genes would affect your response to the medications you were prescribed? As described in this article, pharmacies are encouraging patients to undergo DNA tests because they believe genes do play a role in your response to medications; this idea is known as pharmacogenomics. By using pharmacogenomics, healthcare professionals can tailor medications based on the individual, an idea known as precision medicine.

This is a new and growing idea for the healthcare community. After the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, scientists know significantly more about genes and how they contribute the uniqueness of every individual. Using this new knowledge, research is being done on genes associated with metabolizing medications.

            So how does pharmacogenetics benefit us? Will it really make a difference in our medication regimens?

            I believe that it will. Based on pharmacogenomics, we can treat patients with precision. Precision medicine is based on the idea that every patient will respond differently to different medication. One patient may benefit from one therapy while another patient will not see any improvement in their disease state. One specific example of where we can see pharmacogenomics being used for precision medicine is with depression medications. Imagine a patient was recently diagnosed with depression. They were prescribed a new medication and told that it would take about one month to see any noticeable difference. The patient takes their medication every day as directed. The one month mark comes and goes and the patient is still suffering significantly from their symptoms. What the prescriber did not realize was that the patient was not adequately metabolizing the drug that they prescribed. The medication then had to be switched and the patient continued to suffer another month while waiting to see if this new medication would help.

            Depression medications are not the only medications affected by genetics. Cancer medications, antivirals, pain medications, etc. are all examples of drugs that are affected. Not only can pharmacogenomics and precision medicine improve response to medications, they can also improve adherence. If you are taking a drug that you can tell is helping you, adherence is easier. Pharmacogenomics can also help improve adherence by limiting the occurrence of side effects. If an individual does not metabolize a particular medication well, then they can see increased side effects.

In my opinion, pharmacogenomics will help greatly improve healthcare. We can optimize medications for patients which I believe will help increase adherence. Genetic lab testing is relatively easy to obtain and not too costly. It is so easy that you could drive to your local drug store and purchase a genetic testing kit for under $150. Would you be willing to test your DNA to optimize your treatment if it was possible? I definitely would.