Finding the correct medication for your body is extremely complicated. Many variables affect each person’s response to medication. And pharmacogenetics — the study of how heredity (genetics and identity) influences your drug response — helps identify the best medication for you.
“Precision medicine, often known as personalized medicine, is an approach to disease management which takes into account individual variability in environment, lifestyle and genes,” says Cassie Hajek, M.D., internist-geneticist physician at Sanford Imagenetics. “Every path of drug metabolism is affected by a person’s genetic makeup. We all process medications differently based on our genes; some process quicker, some slower. Pharmacogenetic testing allows us to look at how your genetic makeup affects your ability to metabolize medication, and a treatment plan can be created around this information.”
A fast, simple blood test can provide guidance to physicians using your genetic information to define the best therapy and correct dosage for your body and illness. There are several genes affecting the metabolism of many different medications. Testing can be completed for one gene or a panel of genes, and the results of the testing can be used to determine the most effective medication or dose of medication for an individual.
“The most effective use of pharmacogenetic 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 medication or different doses of medication while waiting for your genetic testing results,” Hajek says.
“Due to genetic variability, some people do not respond well to certain medications. For example, some patients do not effectively respond to Plavix, a medication for patients with a stent in the heart used to reduce blood clots. Now, physicians can offer pharmacogenetic testing for the gene that dictates metabolism of Plavix 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.”
Pharmacogenetics is more precise and helps reduce trial-and-error to get patients the right medication at the right dose sooner. This precision enables physicians to appropriately dose medication for the patient, and the patient can avoid adverse drug reactions.