What is Pharmacogenomics?

  • Pharmacogenomics is a field of health care that investigates how a person’s genetic makeup affects how medications work in the body and how the body acts on a medication. Not all patients will respond in the same way to the same medication based on their particular genes. In a group of patients treated with the same dose of the same drug, some patients may achieve the expected or “normal” response, some may have no response, and some may have an adverse response. The goal of pharmacogenomics is to help the healthcare team identify those patients who may not respond to medications as expected and to help choose medications or specific doses of medications that are likely to work better for an individual. It provides for a more personalized approach to treatment rather than the more traditional “one size fits all” method. Pharmacogenomic testing can be easily completed with a simple blood or saliva test.

What are the potential benefits of using pharmacogenomics?

  • Improve ability to choose medications or doses of medications that may be most effective for a patient. Knowing how a person’s genes will affect how medications work, the physician can choose medications that will work best and avoid those that may not work.

  • Improve safety and fewer side effects from medications. Some patients may be at greater risk for side effects based on how medications are cleared from the body which is determined by the person’s genes. Some of these patients can be identified with pharmacogenomic testing and doses can be adjusted to prevent more severe side effects.

  • Decrease overall healthcare costs. Through improved medication and dosing selection and decreased side effects, pharmacogenomics can reduce the amount of “trial and error” used to choose medications, which may save both time and money for a patient.

What are the potential limitations to pharmacogenomics testing?

  • Not every drug or drug induced side effect has a known link to genetics. In case where there is no link pharmacogenomics testing will not be able to provide meaning information.

  • Pharmacogenomic testing only looks at selected places in the DNA, where changes are linked to how a person could respond to medications.  Therefore no information about disease risk is obtained. 

  • While pharmacogenomics test results have value through out a patient’s life, additional testing could be needed as more genetic variants become important.

What is the cost of pharmacogenomic testing?

  • The cost can vary depending on a person’s condition and their insurance policy. It is helpful to discuss with the insurance company before getting tested to see if the costs will be covered or not. Out of pocket costs are typically a few hundred dollars.

How is pharmacogenomics being used at NorthShore?

  • NorthShore University HealthSystem has developed the Center for Personalized Medicine utilizing a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, genetic counselors, and pharmacists to provide more effective and targeted care for our patients. The Center for Personalized Medicine is currently working with patients to improve treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, psychological conditions, and inherited disorders.

  • Additionally, within the Center for Personalized Medicine at NorthShore, we have a dedicated pharmacogenomics clinic in which patients meet with genetic counselors, medical geneticists, and specially trained pharmacists in order to help individuals to understand and use their genetic results to optimize their treatments.

  • For more information on the work being done at the Center for Personalized Medicine, visit their website at or call 847.570.GENE (4363)


  • Aneesh TP, et al.  Pharmacogenomics: The right drug to the right person. J Clin Med Res. 2009 Oct; 1(4): 191-194.
  • Drug-Gene Testing. Mayo Clinic.
  • M.Whirl-Carrillo EM, et al.  "Pharmacogenomics Knowledge for Personalized Medicine: Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (2012) 92(4):414-417.