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Pharmacogenomics – using genetic data to improve prescribing

Pharmacogenomics is a growing branch of genetic research that can draw on the resources of the KPRB.  Pharmacogenomics can indicate how individuals’ genetic make-up may affect how they respond to certain medications. How might the KP Research Bank contribute to discoveries in this area of science?

What is pharmacogenomics?

Until recently, medication was thought to be “one size fits all” – with the idea that each drug works pretty much the same for everybody. But a variety of research has changed our understanding – we now know that medications can work differently in different people. Pharmacogenomics uses information about a person’s genetic variations to inform the choice of drugs and drug doses that are likely to work best for that individual. Depending on your genetic makeup, some drugs may be less effective for you than they are for other people. Likewise, some drugs may produce more side effects in you than in someone else.  The FDA currently provides guidance on nearly 400 drugs that have been shown to vary in their effectiveness and safety due to variations in people’s genome.

What might pharmacogenomics mean for me?

For certain medications, doctors already use information about individuals’ genes to guide prescribing. For example, doctors test specific genes before prescribing certain drugs like abacavir in patients with HIV. Another example is the breast cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin). This therapy works only for women whose tumors have a particular genetic profile that leads to overproduction of a protein called HER2. In the future, doctors will be able to use more information about your genetic makeup to choose those drugs and drug doses that offer the greatest chance of helping you.

How might the KPRB advance research in pharmacogenomics?

Studies based on data from KPRB participants could help lead to advances in pharmacogenomics and improve treatment for many types of conditions. For example, one study focused on understanding which gout medication should be used in different people, based on their genetic makeup.  An article in this newsletter about glaucoma discusses how current KPRB work may eventually lead to more individualized, genomic based treatments for glaucoma.  Because the KPRB participants are racially and ethnically diverse, studies could be done to understand whether medications vary in safety and effectiveness for different racial and ethnic groups.

The information in this article is based on information from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health,

Chart of Traditional Prescription of Medicine
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