Understanding How Your Body Metabolizes Drugs

Finding the correct medication for your body is extremely complicated. Many variables affect each person’s response to medication. Sanford Imagenetics offers pharmacogenetics — the study of how heredity (genes passed from parent to child) influences your drug response — to help find the best medication for you.

“Precision medicine, often known as personalized medicine, is an approach to disease management which takes into account individual variability in environment, lifestyle and genes,” says Cassie Hajek, MD, internist-geneticist physician at Sanford Imagenetics. “Every path of drug metabolism is affected by a person’s genetic makeup. We all process medications differently based on our genes; some process quicker, some slower. Pharmacogenetic testing allows us to look at how your genetic makeup affects your ability to metabolize medication, and a treatment plan can be created around this information.”

A fast, simple blood test can provide guidance to Sanford Imagenetics physicians using your genetic information to define the best therapy and correct dosage for your body. There are several genes affecting the metabolism of many different medications. Testing can be completed for one gene or a panel of genes. The results of the testing can be used to determine the most effective medication or dose of medication for an individual.

Hajek explains, “Due to genetic variability, some people do not respond well to certain medications. For example, some patients do not effectively respond to Plavix, a medication for patients with a stent in the heart used to reduce blood clots. Now, we can offer pharmacogenetic testing for the gene that dictates metabolism of Plavix and know before we prescribe the medication how the patient will respond. If the blood test shows the person doesn’t respond to the medication, we can prescribe a different medication their body would respond to.”

Pharmacogenetic testing can be helpful for many other medications. Sanford Imagenetics currently offers pharmacogenetic testing for eight genes, which covers over 65 major drug-gene interactions. There are plans to expand this panel in the near future. The results are then available in the patient’s medical record.

Anytime a Sanford physician sees a patient who has completed a pharmacogenetic test, any new prescription orders are automatically compared against their test results, and a real-time alert is sent to the diagnosing physician for any non-compatible medication. The electronic medical record will help the physician change the dose or find an alternative medicine.

Hajek says, “Using pharmacogenetics, Sanford Imagenetics has made a commitment to minimize adverse drug reactions and appropriately dose medications for patients. The most effective use of pharmacogenetic testing is before you need it. That way, a patient’s genetic information can be used at the time the affected medication is order. Having the test results available before the medication is ordered prevents the need to try different medication or different doses of medication while waiting for your genetic testing results.”

“Pharmacogenetic testing can save patients from experiencing adverse drug reactions. It can be powerful,” says Hajek. “Pharmacogenetics is more precise and helps to eliminate trial-and-error to get patients the right medication at the right dose sooner.”

Call 605-312-GENE to learn more.