Defining the Potential of Pharmacogenomics
Written By: Khallid Benson
Over the past several years, I’ve had a growing affinity towards the science behind therapeutics. When it first began, I couldn’t necessarily explain what motivated it. However, over time I began to realize where my interest was tied to. This is a field where we are continuously learning about the correlation between anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmaceutic approaches. Yet, at the same time, the answers have been laying right in front of us waiting to be utilized. At least that’s how I view it. I see it as finding missing puzzle pieces and learning about the impact that can make towards seeing the whole picture. One puzzle piece I can’t seem to stop thinking about as of recent is pharmacogenomics. Although with the completion of the Human Genome Project has occurred almost two decades ago and most of the pertinent information from pharmacogenomics has already been attained, its impact is still only a potential. We are all waiting to see it in action.
Before defining the potential of pharmacogenomics, it would be ideal to thoroughly define the term. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how someone’s genes respond to medications. To put into context, Warfarin is a blood thinner commonly used for individuals with irregular heartbeats that can lead to clotting of the heart. This medication blocks protein complexes in our body to reduce our ability to form blood clots with the intention of prevent a serious clotting event from the irregular heartbeat. A side effect of this is an increased risk of bleeding which is ideal considering that the side effect is tolerable and worth for preventing a cardiac event in exchange.
However, we all know that drugs are not a one size fits all kind of therapy. Warfarin can cause more incidents of serious bleeding in some than others. It was through pharmacogenomics that proved that there is gene mutation that occurs frequently in African-Americans that impeded the body’s ability to get rid of the Warfarin in the body. Due to the body not being able to get rid of it as efficiently as it should, this led to a higher amount of Warfarin in the body and a much higher risk of bleeding. Here a race was experiencing a severe side effect due to a simple genetic alteration. This information was discovered from pharmacogenomics. This information now can allow health care providers to make adjustments to their strategic thinking in choosing therapy. Now other medications that aren’t affected by this mutation are may be chosen as there is evidence to support theses decisions. Pharmacogenomics has led us to discoveries similar to this for hundreds of drug-induced side effects including ones for over the counter meds and herbal supplements. That’s a pretty large puzzle piece.
What’s next? Taking this and implementing it into healthcare to personalize medicine. The one size fits all phenomenon can slowly be conquered with clinical trials demonstrating the impact this can have in health care and emphasize the need for pharmacogenomic testing of individuals to be more affordable. Tailoring a drug regimen to one’s ability to eliminate a drug from the body is trivial to the possibilities of pharmacogenomics. A world awaits us where affordable treatment targeted towards heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s, depression, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and more could all be greatly enhanced by having the patient’s genes mapped down precisely. At this point, it’s fair to say the potential of pharmacogenomics has been defined. Now it’s time to make everyone aware of it’s definition.
Pharm.D. Candidate Khallid Benson is a student of art as much as he is a student of medicinal sciences. Benson records, produces, and writes for other recording artists including his own group called “99%.” As far apart as creating music and practicing pharmacy may appear to be on the career spectrum, Khallid has manages to bridge the two fields through his work in graphic designing. This includes infographics, informational videos, and commercials that Conduit has utilized within their content.