Pharmacogenomics involves identifying variations in individual biochemistry which may affect the utility of a specific drug. If accurate cause and effect can be established, knowledge of a patient’s gene makeup and expression patterns could allow for greater effectiveness of drug therapy more quickly and help avoid potential adverse events. Pharmacogenomics is probably the most developed aspect of personalized medicine. A recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association discusses studies examining anti-platelet therapy, used for a variety of cardiovascular diseases, and finding that a particular variation in a drug-metabolizing gene may account for a significant amount of differing individual responses to Plavix, a common anti-platelet therapy. (JAMA Article)
Plavix is known not to work well in many patients for whom it is prescribed. Identifying those patients in advance would accelerate the use of an effective agent for them, reduce costs from ineffective use of Plavix and potentially avoid some side effects. Genetic testing tends to be somewhat expensive, but it is likely that if the results of this study are borne out by clinical practice, overall cost savings should result. While the reform debate goes on, so do advances in clinical medicine. Many of these advances may both improve quality and save money.