Are you a patient interested in how genetic testing can help inform your provider when making healthcare decisions for you? Or maybe you’re a healthcare provider who wants to explore genetic testing to help you make more informed prescription decisions for your patients? Either way, you may have come across the term “pharmacogenomics” and wondered what it’s all about.
Simply put, pharmacogenomics (PGx) is the study of how DNA affects the observed variability in medication response. Pharmacogenomic testing is genetic testing that evaluates how an individual’s DNA could affect the way certain medications may work for them. Along with other clinical genetic tests, PGx falls under the umbrella of precision medicine—a branch of healthcare that aims to personalize care based on the patient’s DNA, among other factors. Healthcare providers can use PGx test results to help select medications for a patient, and patients can use them to stay informed and engaged in the healthcare decisions their doctor is making with them.
How does pharmacogenomic testing work?
The key to PGx is that it focuses on the individual. Each person’s DNA is unique; a drug therapy that works well for one person may be ineffective for another and may cause serious side effects for a third.
Like other genetic tests, a PGx test starts with taking an individual’s DNA sample — typically with a cheek swab. This can be done at the individual’s home or in a doctor’s office, clinic, or other healthcare facility. The sample is sent to a lab where the DNA is analyzed based on gene variations that may impact how an individual's body and certain medications interact.
Once the lab processes the DNA sample, the test identifies the predicted severity of a gene-drug interaction. variations in these genes that affect how individuals are likely to metabolize, or process, medications. The testing may uncover how an individual is likely to metabolize, or process, medications, and thus if he or she is likely to be over or under exposed to a drug.
Why pharmacogenomic testing is important
Using PGx data to aid in prescription decisions may help provider achieve positive health outcomes by potentially reducing the need for trial and error in prescribing.
Traditionally, prescribing has been based on physical information (age, weight, gender, pregnancy, etc.) and/or historical information about what works for most patients. Providers can use PGx data to help them make prescribing decisions based on their patients’ DNA, along with these traditional measures. 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. Using a PGx test, providers may be able to better target which antidepressants to prescribe for their patients.
PGx testing may also help providers and their patients limit the risk of adverse drug reactions. Adverse drug reactions result in approximately $136 billion in healthcare spend annually and are the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the FDA.
Putting pharmacogenomic testing into practice
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, the results of a PGx test can be used for years to come, making it a cost-effective solution to supporting long-term health and prescription decisions. But, what is the best way to get started?
PGx for patients
If you’re interested in PGx testing, you have 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.
At OneOme, we offer the RightMed® test, which covers many medications. Your doctor can order it for you, or you can purchase the test online (an independent provider will review your information and order the test, if clinically appropriate). When you purchase the test online, you even get a complimentary consult from a board-certified genetic counselor who will talk through your results. Once your results are ready, you can share them with your healthcare team, giving them valuable information to consider when writing a prescription for you.
PGx for providers
With the RightMed test, providers get access to their patient’s results (with customizable reporting options), the RightMed Advisor (an interactive clinical decision support tool), and complimentary consults with OneOme’s clinical pharmacists to help interpret patient test results.
Learn more about how to get started with RightMed, by downloading our provider toolkit.