January 15, 2021

by Lucas O’Brien

Medications are an essential component of modern healthcare. Some medications have become universal household products, such as various medications for seasonal allergies, pain relief, or even for sleep. For those with chronic conditions, some prescription medications may become a part of everyday life. Everyone has a different experience when it comes to considering which medications they need to take, but for the longest time, science was unable to explain exactly why two patients may experience different effects from the same drug. In recent years, however, we have begun to understand this in a new way through the field of pharmacogenomics.

A different phenotypic expression in a single gene can affect not only the strength of the medication’s intended effect, but also the presence and intensity of side effects.
Pharmacogenomics is the study of the role our genetic code influences our response to medications. Clinical pharmacogenomics is the application of this information to a specific patient to improve medication outcomes. For many years, prescribers have dosed medications based on a variety of factors, such as age, body weight, and other drugs that may be in use by an individual patient. A different phenotypic expression in a single gene can affect not only the strength of the medication’s intended effect, but also the presence and intensity of side effects. With this in mind, it is not difficult to imagine possible applications for this knowledge; the most significant of which is a more detailed, personalized prescription that is made just for you. Not surprisingly, there is even momentum for the use of pharmacogenomics directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic; one company is offering a free analysis of pharmacogenomic results and their impact on potential treatments for COVID-19 to individuals who have already completed pharmacogenomic testing.

As the price of pharmacogenomic testing continues to decrease and literature on the impact of pharmacogenomics continues to increase, expect to see widespread adoption. This process of adoption will likely be expedited by FDA approval of testing through direct-to-consumer companies like 23andMe to begin providing pharmacogenomic data with their testing results. We would go so far as to say that it is going to be the responsibility of the pharmacist to understand this field, as more and more patients will come to us with testing results.

For a more in-depth look at how pharmacogenomics may impact the care of the patients you serve and maybe even your own care, listen to our most recent podcast episode from DISRxUPT, a podcast from the Cedarville University Center for Pharmacy Innovation. In this episode we interview Cedarville alumnus, Dr. Ryley Uber, who serves as the Pharmacogenomics Program Director at Geisinger Health. Follow the link below to hear all about pharmacogenomics and its implications for individual pharmacists as well as the whole of public health.

Lucas O’Brien is a junior at Cedarville University and a Student Innovator in the Center for Pharmacy Innovation.

The Cedarville University School of Pharmacy is equipping its Doctor of Pharmacy students to be on the leading edge of healthcare innovation. Cedarville’s Pharm.D. students are fully prepared to begin a rewarding career as a pharmacist and to use their calling to make a difference for Christ as they serve with excellence and compassion.

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