July 7, 2014

Personalized Medicines

Finally, it is great to see a federal agency advocating for personalized medicines. The agency is the National Institute of Health, Senior Health. I am especially thankful with the opening statement - Medicines: One Size Does Not Fit All (Bold is my emphasis). Studies have shown that even properly prescribed medicines cause a number of hospitalizations each year.

The article explains that allergy medicines don't work for everyone and for others, the standard dosage of a prescription pain reliever can cause side effects that are uncomfortable or life threatening. As the person ages, fat and muscle content change. This then affects how the body absorbs and processes drugs. Other factors also affect how a person responds to medicines and some of these factors are exercise habits, diet, and general health condition.

A key factor in how we react to medicines is heredity. In other words the genes we inherit from our ancestors. These genes influence the way people respond to many types of medicines including many blood pressure and asthma medicines. Your genes affect the shape and function of your proteins. As the different drugs travel through your body, they interact with dozens of proteins.

Remember, everyone’s genes are slightly different and thus everyone’s proteins are different. Variations in some proteins can affect the way we respond to medicines. These proteins include those that help the body absorb, metabolize, or eliminate drugs.

I know this personally. I have no problems with Lisinopril, for blood pressure. However, my wife developed one of the side effects and could not shake it until one week after she stopped taking it with the doctor's order. She now takes a different medication that works for her, but I had a severe reaction to it until I was prescribed Lisinopril.

A new type of research is taking place around the country to understand how genes affect the way people respond to medicines. This research is called pharmacogenomics.

As pharmacogenomics research progresses, it will become increasingly important to identify all the possible variations in genes that play a role in drug response. To identify which versions of these genes a person has, researchers examine DNA from that person. An easy, painless, and risk-free way to obtain DNA is from mouth cells that stick to a cotton swab rubbed on the inside of a volunteer's cheek.” If you have watched any of the CSI TV shows, you know that this is done. It takes longer than it does on TV, but the results are there.

As this research progresses, finding the differences in people's genetic backgrounds will help doctors prescribe the right medicine in the right dosage for each person. This will make medicines safer and effective for everyone.

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