Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.
Many drugs that are currently available are “one size fits all,” but they don’t work the same way for everyone. It can be difficult to predict who will benefit from a medication, who will not respond at all, and who will experience negative side effects (called adverse drug reactions). Adverse drug reactions are a significant cause of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States. With the knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project, researchers are learning how inherited differences in genes affect the body’s response to medications. These genetic differences will be used to predict whether a medication will be effective for a particular person and to help prevent adverse drug reactions.
The field of pharmacogenomics is still in its infancy. Its use is currently quite limited, but new approaches are under study in clinical trials. In the future, pharmacogenomics will allow the development of tailored drugs to treat a wide range of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and asthma.
For more information about pharmacogenomics:
The U.S Department of Energy Office of Science offers a fact sheet on pharmacogenomics. This resource outlines the anticipated benefits of this approach and lists barriers to progress.
Basic information about pharmacogenomics is also available from the Wellcome Trust. Additionally, the Wellcome Trust offers an article about the ethical considerations surrounding pharmacogenomics.
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences offers a list of Frequently Asked Questions about Pharmacogenomics.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information provides a discussion of this topic as part of its Science Primer: One Size Does Not Fit All: The Promise of Pharmacogenomics.
Additional information about pharmacogenetics is available from the Centre for Genetics Education.
The Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah offers an interactive introduction to pharmacogenomics.
Genetic Tools offers a teaching case about genetic testing that predicts drug response (pharmacogenetic testing).
A list of clinical trials involving pharmacogenomics is available from ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the National Institutes of Health.