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Pharmacogenomic Basics

Not all drugs work the same and have the same in all people, and while age, sex, and interactions with other drugs can influence how people respond to treatment, NorthShore University HealthSystem's Mark Dunnenberger writes at US News and World Report that genes also play a role.

Dunnenberger, who runs a hospital-based pharmacogenomics clinic, says pharmacogenomics testing can help predict patients' response to certain drugs, though he notes that such testing isn't yet available for all drugs.

He outlines seven things people should know about pharmacogenomic testing. First, Dunnenberger notes that such testing won't reveal people's disease risk or the genetic behind other traits like eye color and that it even won't tell people how they'll respond to every drug out there. But, he adds, whatever results people do get will be valid throughout their life.

In particular, he says the results are most helpful for people who discover they are non-responders to certain drugs. "For some people, the tests can help explain why they didn't respond to medications in the past, or provide peace of mind in knowing they are not genetically predisposed to a negative outcome on a new medication," Dunnenberger writes.

Overall, he adds that people will get the most out of testing when they head into it with a particular question, such as whether or not they respond to blood thinners if heart disease is common in their family.