It’s well known that patients do not all react the same to a given drug. The range is so wide that some do not respond at all, or only adversely, to drugs which are perfectly adequate for others. It seems that much of the variation is due to small differences in our individual genetic make-ups, often on only a single element of our DNA (called single nucleotide polymorphisms, thankfully abbreviated to SNPs, pronounced snips). The new field of pharmacogenomics builds on the detailed research now being conducted to determine the exact sequence of DNA in our bodies (the human genome), and on the advanced genetic tools now becoming available. The aim is to work out what the differences between patients’ DNA mean for drug efficiency and to create suitable diagnostic tests. Pharmacologists can then produce drugs that are tailored for patients with a particular genetic sequence and ensure that patients who are susceptible to the side-effects of a drug are not given it. The word is a combination of pharmaco-, the prefix that relates to the study of medicines or drugs, with genomics, itself a word too new for most dictionaries, meaning the formal study of the genetic make-up of organisms.
Within a decade, pharmacogenomics and DNA-chip technology could provide effective drugs personalised to match patients’ symptoms with their individual genetic make-ups.
Daily Telegraph, Feb. 1998
The real push toward pharmacogenomics may be driven by managed health care. A diagnostic test, even if it does add cost, could avoid the expense of today’s trial-and-error methods of making multiple doctor’s visits to have a prescription adjusted.
Scientific American, Oct. 1998