Pharmacogenomics: Your genes hold valuable information

DNA test can help doctors decide which medications may work best for you

Scientist holding DNA gel in front of samples for pharmacogenomics or PGx testing in laboratory.

Finding the correct medication for you can be complicated. Many variables affect how each person responds to medications. One of these variables is pharmacogenomics, also referred to as PGx.

Pharmacogenomics (PGx) is the study of how heredity, or genetics, influences how your body processes certain medications. PGx testing may help identify a medication that your body is not able to process as expected.

Why pharmacogenomics

“Precision medicine, often known as personalized medicine, is an approach to disease management which takes into account individual variability in environment, lifestyle and genes,” said Cassie Hajek, M.D., an internist-geneticist at Sanford Imagenetics.

“Each medication has a pathway that is required to break down or processes the medication in your body to be able to be used correctly. This pathway is affected by a person’s genetic makeup.

“We all process medications differently based on our genes; some process quicker, some slower. PGx testing allows us to look at how your genetic makeup affects your ability to process medication, and a treatment plan can be created with this information in mind.”

Your provider will consider all of the factors specific to you when making decisions on medication therapy. Having your genetic information about how your body processes medications can help your doctor make clinical decisions for your care.

Where to get PGx testing

Sanford Health offers a set of genetic blood tests that can provide your doctor with this information. After you have this genetic test, the results are available in your medical record. If your doctor prescribes a medication affected by your genetic information, the electronic medical record will help them decide which medications may work best for you.

“The most effective use of PGx testing is before you need it. That way, a patient’s genetic information can be used at the time the affected medication is ordered. Having the test results available before the medication is ordered may reduce the need to try different medications or different doses of medication while waiting for your genetic testing results,” Dr. Hajek said.

“Due to genetic variability, some people do not respond well to certain medications. For example, some patients do not effectively respond to Plavix (clopidogrel), a medication for patients with a stent in the heart used to reduce blood clots. Now, physicians can offer PGx testing for the gene that dictates how Plavix is processed and know before we prescribe the medication how the patient will respond. If the blood test shows the person doesn’t respond to the medication, we can prescribe a different medication their body would respond to.”

PGx is more precise and may help reduce trial-and-error allowing to get patients the right medication at the right dose sooner. This precision may also enable physicians to appropriately dose medication for the patient in an attempt to avoid adverse drug reactions.

Where PGx test results go

A team of clinical pharmacists reviews the PGx test results for each patient keeping in mind the patient’s specific variables. Recommendations for medication management are shared with the doctors through the electronic medical record and are also stored for future medication needs.

Patients interested in a discussion of their results can make an appointment to visit the Sanford Pharmacogenomics Clinic in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Learn more or schedule a screening at Sanford Imagenetics or call (605) 404-4000.

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Posted In Family Medicine, Genetics, Health Information, Internal Medicine