When it comes to medications, a drug that works well for one person may not work well for another. A standard dosage may achieve the desired treatment outcome in most patients yet could result in side effects or no therapeutic benefit at all in others.

An emerging field, pharmacogenetics is the study of how our DNA influences our response to different medications. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) carries our genetic code and serves as the blueprint for building the cells of the human body. We all have small differences, or variants, in our DNA that make each of us unique. Some are inherited (germline variants) and others (somatic variants) are acquired throughout life, frequently due to environmental factors. Our distinctive genetic makeup often means that a one-size-fits-all approach to drug treatment may not be optimal. Two people receiving the same medication at the same dose for the same health condition may have vastly different experiences.

NorthShore features highly specialized clinical pharmacogenomics expertise uncommon in most health systems. Pharmacogenomics lets our expert clinicians optimize your care. Our pharmacogenomics experts and clinicians tailor treatments based on your genes, not just your age, lifestyle and overall health. This innovative approach reduces the potential trial and error of prescribing medications, and allows us choose the right drug and right dose the first time.

Our new Pharmacogenomics Clinic offers genetic testing and interpretation to enhance drug therapy, from selection to dosage. A simple cheek swab or small sample of your saliva or blood allows our pharmacogenetics team to study your DNA for a better idea of how you may respond to specific types of medications.

Pharmacogenomics is a key component of delivering personalized medicine. Pharmacogenomic information can provide vital clinical decision-making support for physicians well before a patient is ever prescribed drug therapy. Knowing upfront what drug-gene pairs work best for an individual has the potential to revolutionize routine patient care in the very near future. As more is learned about specific drug metabolizing and transport genes and how they process some of the most common medications available today, our ability to provide personalized care is rapidly accelerating.

A leader in the field, we are working to build a systematic process for integrating the latest pharmacogenomics as well as genomic data into NorthShore’s award-winning electronic medical record system. Incorporated into each individual patient’s health history, this information will help to ensure personalized medicine at all points of care—from your physician’s office or clinic visit to a hospital stay.

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