DNA Drugs Coming to a Pharmacy Near You

May 15 2015 – ROBERT FIUMARA

When treating illness and injury with prescription medications, many Doctors play a game of trial and error.  With so many prescriptions drugs available on the market, Doctors can find themselves overwhelmed with what to prescribe for a number of illnesses from high blood pressure to the common flu.  But what if there were a way to fit drugs to a specific patient, learning before they were even prescribed if it would work?  In the future, Doctors may be able to do just that.


A $4 million study seeks to understand whether or not DNA testing can provide information on which drugs patients may respond better to.  If patients are found to have specific DNA markers it may suggest that they will have non-typical reactions to certain medications that can increase or decrease their effectiveness.  This study, conducted by Eskenazi Health and in collaboration with the Indiana University School of Medicine, rests on the premise that Doctors should not treat all patients the same and instead, should match the appropriate drug to the appropriate person.


For now, Doctors use the average dose of drugs to treat each individual patient but previous studies have suggested that it’s often a persons genes that determine how they react to medicine.  The study will include about 4,000 to 6,000 patients, as a control while 2,000 patients will undergo genetic testing through a simple and affordable blood draw.  With this information, Doctors will be able to practice medicine that is individualized to each of their patients and their specific health issues, family history, and genetic variations. 


A good example of patient’s reacting to medications differently, are patient’s whose liver cannot properly metabolize painkillers.  In fact, many patients lack the enzyme that can activate the painkilling effects in a commonly prescribed drug, Codeine.  While all Doctors might wear the typical white coat, not all patients will respond to any treatment, including medication, in the same fashion.  Many Doctors have been trained to believe that if one medication works for one patient then it will work for another.  Studies have already concluded that patients of different ethnicities react differently to anti-rejection drugs when receiving organ transplants, which means they require a different combination of care than other patients.  While the study continues to be in the beginning stages, Doctors hope that it will provide a framework to determine who should undergo genetic testing, when beginning at a new practice or switching to a different provider.


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