Pharmacogenomics is a long word that describes an interesting area of health research with potentially broad implications for future medicine. This element is now part of almost every clinical trial we do at Okanagan Clinical Trials.

It is the mixture of the pharmaceutical and genetic sciences and involves the study of how a person's genes can affect the way the body responds to drugs. The hope is that we will be able to identify genetic differences between those who respond to a new medication in a clinical trial and those who don't and perhaps differences associated with particular side-effects.

We now realize that knowing the genetic code is just the beginning. We also need to know what proteins are being produced by that code (proteomics) and how these affect function. The genetic code does not code for disease, but it codes for protein and depending on when, where and how much of these are produced, we get vulnerability to specific diseases.

What this means is that as this science progresses, new drugs could be tailor-made for individuals to suit each person's genetic makeup. By taking an individual's full genetic profile into account, personalized medications could be even safer and more effective than they are today.

One of the potential benefits of the study of pharmacogenomics is the potential for more powerful medicines. Pharmaceutical companies could create medications that are based on the actual molecules involved with specific diseases. This pinpoint accuracy could make drugs more targeted for a particular illness and also decrease the adverse effects.

With this information the safest and most effective drugs could be prescribed first with less time spent trying many different drugs in search of the one that works best.

Within psychiatry this will be particularly useful as there are several medications used to treat most disorders. Instead of trying three different antidepressants one after another, patients would be given their best option right away. Not only will this be safer, but it will speed recovery times in many cases as the process of switching from one medicine to another can sometimes take months.

Drug dosage will also be streamlined with the use of pharmacogenomics. Rather than basing dose on a person's weight and age alone, dosage could be based on a person's genes as well as the way in which the body processes and metabolizes the specific medication. There are individual differences in these things that we can seldom identify at the present time.

Knowing our individual genetic characteristics will also allow us to make early lifestyle and environmental choices that will help to prevent diseases with genetic vulnerabilities or at least minimize their effects. Also, if we know in advance that we are susceptible to a particular condition, it will be possible to monitor closely and introduce treatments as early as possible.

Drug development will also become easier as researchers will be able to use genetic information to discover treatments quickly. New drugs could also be matched to niche markets and clinical trials could focus specifically on individuals with the ability to respond to the medication.

All of these benefits could combine to decrease the overall cost of health care and drug development. With less adverse drug reactions, fewer failed drug trials, quicker discoveries, shorter treatment times, fewer attempted medications and more effective results, health care costs both to individuals and society would likely decrease.

Although pharmacogenomics is already being used to some extent in the treatment of cancers, depression and cardiovascular disease, it is still in the very early research stages. Some important obstacles have yet to be overcome before its role will expand to all areas of medicine.

First, scientists need to understand exactly what genes are involved with each illness and which ones are involved in drug response. Once this is accomplished, we need to develop a fast and affordable way to identify the genes and proteins involved. Currently, this kind of thing is very time-consuming, complicated and expensive.

Other potential problems may be that there will be limited alternatives for individuals with rare genetic combinations if there are only one or two approved drugs for the treatment of a particular condition. Private companies may not be willing to develop alternative medications to serve small numbers of people.

Finally, if pharmacogenomics does begin to play a more prominent role in medicine, physicians will need to keep up educationally with the scientific advances that are occurring at break-neck speed.


Current Studies

 Alzheimer's Disease 


 Parkinson's Disease





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