What is pharmacogenomics?

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. It has taken a while for people to really understand how and why different people respond differently to the same medications, but I think it’s now commonly understood that people may react very differently to the same medication. In cases where this is dangerous or has serious side effects or is very expensive, the system is looking for new ways of intervening to leverage genetic testing and screening to determine when medications are appropriate.

But, the tests aren’t cheap and both patients and physicians don’t always understand when to use them. For example, Oncotype-DX is a genetic test for breast cancer that predicts the risk of recurrence. As a recent article in Employee Benefit News (Feb 2012) said, if you knew that you had a 3% chance of the cancer returning in the next decade, would you still choose to have chemotherapy?

The article has quotes from various people debating the use of testing and whether the ROI is there yet. But, I think there are more and more specialty drugs being approved with genetic tests, and it creates unique opportunities. For example, in Hepatitis C, if you knew the variation of the gene that the patient had, you could determine if they needed 24 weeks of therapy versus 48 weeks of therapy.

While oncology is a big focus area here, there are other areas such as Hep C, HIV, cardiovascular disease, RA, and high cholesterol where tests are either developed or being developed.

One Response to “What is pharmacogenomics?”

  1. An article came out this week about the complexity of understanding treatment for a tumor from one sample…it was in March 8th’s NEJM….it seems like we get closer and then move further away. Clearly LOTS of opportunity

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