human genes

Photo by Sangharsh Lohakare on Unsplash

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom — The future of medicine may have a very personal touch. New research finds that medications can produce 30 percent fewer side-effects if doctors match dosages with a patient’s DNA. The findings provide further evidence that genes can help create tailored prescriptions for individual care, rather than generalizing them to an entire population.

Currently, most medicines follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach. While this makes medicine more readily available to the public, not everyone reacts the same way to prescription drugs. Some people might find a drug useful while others can’t stand the medication because of its awful side-effects. There’s also the issue of people metabolizing medicines at different rates. This means a person might need a higher dose to get the drug’s full effect and vice versa.

Patients feel they have more control over their prescriptions

In the clinical trial, 7,000 people from seven European countries carried around a “DNA medication pass” that contains information on the patient’s genetic profile. Scanning the pass would allow doctors and pharmacists to decide what medicines to use and calculate the best dosage for them. The drugs ranged across medical fields from oncology to psychiatry.

Study authors randomly placed the participants into the genotyping group that had their DNA mapped out. They focused their attention on 12 specific genes and 50 types of genetic variants and how 39 drugs affected them. About three months into the trial, a nurse contacted each participant, asking about side-effects such as diarrhea, anemia, nerve pain, or muscle pain.

People who actively used their medication pass and whose prescriptions were tailored to their genetic code found to have 30 percent fewer side-effects compared to patients prescribed a standard dose of medicine. What’s more, people using tailored medications reported being happier with the DNA medication passes. The authors suggest this might be because it gives patients a feeling of control over their health, along with feeling actively involved in their medical decisions.

“This is a large landmark randomized study which shows that pharmacogenomic testing using a comprehensive genotyping panel can prevent adverse drug reactions, an outcome measure which is clinically important to individual patients and to healthcare systems,” says Sir Munir Pirmohamed, a professor at the University of Liverpool and principal investigator for the only U.K. site taking part in the trial, in a media release. “A 30% reduction in adverse reactions with a single intervention is remarkable.”

The clinical results show that a tailored strategy towards drug prescriptions works. The next obstacle in the road is deciding how to promote this plan in countries with vastly different healthcare systems.

The findings appear in The Lancet.

About Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master's of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor's of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women's health.

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