By Reed Richardson

November 5, 2019

Traditionally healthcare providers have prescribed treatment based on population average. A treatment is known to help a majority, so it is prescribed to a majority. In recent years, however, researchers have come to the realization that most medical treatments are not one size fits all.

The study of pharmacogenomics has helped us learn that, because our genetic makeup is unique, our bodies react to medications uniquely. Medications that help one group of people may be ineffective or cause severe side effects in another. For example, asthma drugs have been found to be ineffective in as much as 40 percent of patients and anti-depressants in 38 percent of patients.

Through the use of pharmacogenetic testing, we can learn how our bodies are likely to process and react to medication. With the results in hand, the healthcare provider can personalize treatment for the individual patient. They can select an increased or lowered dose or choose one medication over another to best suit the patient’s genetic makeup.

One of the first uses of pharmacogenetic testing was for patients prescribed warfarin to prevent blood clots. Warfarin dosing was typically adjusted through multiple rounds of trial-and-error, during which there was risk for excessive bleeding or further blood clots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now recommends testing for all patients before warfarin treatment, which allows for more precise dosing.

Because a patient’s genetics do not change over time, pharmacogenetic testing does not need to be repeated unless advances in the testing technology suggest new or additional information may be gleaned from being retested.

Pharmacogenetic testing can:

  • Help to avoid side effects that could result in hospitalization.
  • Suggest a drug that will be the safest and most effective for the patient’s condition.
  • Reduce costs associated with repeated treatment and complications.
  • Contribute to overall improved patient care and satisfaction.

With an increase in the use of pharmacogenetic testing, however, comes additional responsibility for the healthcare provider to select a test from the more than 65,000 available and to interpret the results to select the correct treatment. Products like hc1 PGx Advisor can help healthcare providers wade through all of the information by combining conventional medication therapy management (MTM), pharmacogenomics (PGx), and integrated engagement and monitoring workflows specific to the individual patient. To learn more, request a demo.

While much has already been learned, pharmacogenomic research is still in its early stages. As more research is completed, the door is opened for the development of better drugs and treatments that take into account genetic variations. In the past few years, biopharmaceutical companies have nearly doubled their investment in research and development of personalized medicines and researchers predict a 69 percent increase in the number of personalized medicines in development over the next five years.

References

The Medical Futurist. (27 Nov 2018). Pharmacogenomics: The Science of Personalizing Drugs Based On DNA. https://medicalfuturist.com/pharmacogenomics-the-science-of-personalizing-drugs-based-on-dna

Personalized Medicine Coalition. (2017). The personalized medicine report. http://www.personalizedmedicinecoalition.org/Userfiles/PMC-Corporate/file/The_PM_Report.pdf

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