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Dunnenberger: Are your genes impacting your reaction to medications?

Did you know that 99 percent of people may have variations in their genes that can impact how they react to common medications?

Through a new kind of genetic testing, in a field known as pharmacogenomics, doctors are able to run tests that analyze patients’ genes to help predict their response to a medication. This can be used to treat many conditions, including psychiatric disorders, pain management and cardiology, to name a few.

Pharmacogenomics is a relatively new field, however, as excitement grows for the value that these tests can bring, an increasing number of health systems and physicians are offering it to patients, including NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston

There are a few types of people that can greatly benefit from pharmacogenomics today.

People frustrated by low or lack of medication effectiveness stand to benefit from pharmacogenomics testing. It can help explain why you don’t respond to certain medications and alert you if you’re likely to experience a negative outcome with a medication before trying it.

• People who do not want a full genetic scan; pharmacogenomics is a study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. It will not predict your risk of cancer or other diseases, but will help you find treatments tailored to your genes to help make you feel better quicker.

• People with a specific question or goal related to medication. Pharmacogenomics testing isn’t for everyone. Remember, it is not a crystal ball and wont predict future ailments. Make sure you have a specific health question or condition and consider the information you want back, before taking the test.

Understanding the basics of pharmacogenomics and how it differs from person-to-person is important in getting the most out of genetic testing and determining whether or not it could be a useful tool for you. Consult your doctor if you are interested in learning more about pharmacogenomics testing and its potential benefits to you.

Mark Dunnenberger, PharmD.  Dr. Dunnenberger leads the nation’s first dedicated pharmacogenomics clinic, started last year, within the Center for Personalized Medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston.

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