Pharmacogenomics is the study of how a person's genetic make-up determines his or her response to medications. The effects of medications vary from person to person, and to some degree depend on variations within genes. This is one of the reasons why a medication may work well for some people and not for others, or why some people experience negative side effects while others do not. The three major drug effects that pharmacogenomics attempts to predict are efficacy (how well a drug works), toxicity (negative side effects), and dosing (the correct amount of a drug to administer to a patient).
Until recently, medications were developed and administered in a "one size fits all" approach to meet the needs of an "average" patient. With the help of personalized research, clinicians have the ability to select the medications that work best for each patient.
"...Precision medicine -- in some cases, people call it personalized medicine -- gives us one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen. Doctors have always recognized that every patient is unique, and doctors have always tried to tailor their treatments as best they can to individuals. You can match a blood transfusion to a blood type. That was an important discovery. What if matching a cancer cure to our genetic code was just as easy, just as standard? What if figuring out the right dose of medicine was as simple as taking our temperature?
And that's the promise of precision medicine -- delivering the right treatments, at the right time, every time to the right person.
-President Barack Obama, January 30, 2015
Individualized drug therapy based on a person's unique genetic makeup is desirable because of the variability of patient response to medications and the potential for life-threatening drug toxicities; adverse drug reactions are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. If clinicians could better predict which individuals are at risk of suffering drug-related toxicities, while also identifying those most likely to benefit, then the overall care of patients could be improved considerably.