Whether you’re a patient with concerns about your medications or a provider looking for ways to make more personalized prescribing decisions for your patients, you may have run across the term “pharmacogenomics” and wondered what it’s all about.
At the core, pharmacogenomics (often called PGx) is the study of how genetic factors can influence medication response. Fuelled by genomic advances in the wake of the Human Genome Project’s completion in 2003 and backed by an ever-growing body of clinical evidence, PGx is rapidly becoming a useful complement to traditional prescribing processes.
Doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare providers can use PGx information to help narrow down the wide array of medication options available and identify those that are likely to be most effective for an individual patient.
How Pharmacogenomic testing works
PGx testing, like all genetic testing, begins with a DNA sample - usually a cheek swab. This can be done in an individual’s home, doctor’s office, clinic, or other healthcare facility. The sample is then sent to a lab where the DNA is analyzed. The lab identifies the specific genetic variants an individual has that can affect the way they may react to medications and presents this information back to the ordering provider.
It’s important to note that, while some non-clinical genetic tests may include genes that can affect medication response, only PGx tests ordered by a physician or other qualified healthcare provider should be used in making medication decisions. And, people should never make medication changes without consulting their doctor.
The value of pharmacogenomics
The real value in PGx testing is that it brings greater individualization to the prescribing process. A medication that works well for one person may be ineffective for another and could cause serious side effects for a third. PGx results can help providers understand possible reasons behind this variation and identify medications that may work well for a person based on their DNA along with factors like age, weight, tobacco use, and concurrent medications.
Having access to PGx results may help providers minimize the need for costly, time consuming trial and error and reduce the likelihood of adverse drug reactions. Consider the example of antidepressants: 50% of people do not respond favorably to their first prescription, according to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Many antidepressants are metabolized by specific enzymes in the liver (collectively called the cytochrome P450s, if you’re interested). Certain genetic variants can affect the way these enzymes work, which in turn can affect how antidepressants work for individual people. PGx test results can uncover which variants a patient has, giving providers valuable information to help them tailor antidepressant selection for that patient.
Putting pharmacogenomics to work for you
The potential benefits of PGx testing make it a valuable tool to help providers in their prescribing decisions. And, since DNA doesn’t change with time, providers can use an individual’s PGx test results for years to come, making it a cost-effective solution to support long-term health and prescription decisions. So, where do you go to get started?
For patients and individuals
If you’re looking at getting PGx testing for yourself, you have a number of options. You can talk to your doctor about ordering a test for you — you may even be able to provide your DNA sample right at the doctor’s office — or you can find a PGx company that offers clinical tests ordered by independent providers.
At OneOme, we work with an independent physician network to offer our RightMed® Test, which provides information on 27 genes that may affect the way medications work for you. When you purchase the test online, a physician from this network will review the information you provide and, if appropriate, order the test for you. You’ll also get a consult with a genetic counselor when your results are ready, and you’ll be able to share your PGx results with your doctor - either via your OneOme account or by printing your RightMed Gene Report and bringing it with you to your next doctor appointment.
Providers interested in offering PGx testing to their patients can do so independently. OneOme also works with healthcare organizations to support PGx programs that can be tied to specific specialties or span the entire organization. With the RightMed Test, providers get the RightMed Gene Report, which presents genotype and phenotype information for 27 genes, along with complimentary consults with OneOme clinical team members to help interpret the patient’s results. To get started, download our test requisition form or contact us to get set up with a provider portal.