Other than the last name of Denis Shapovalov (Canada’s newest rising tennis star), one of the most difficult pronunciations I’ve come across lately is pharmacogenomics – a form of personalized medicine that could be a game-changer in terms of linking the right drug to the right person to improve their health outcome.

Like Shapovalov, it’s a name worth remembering. Pharmacogenomics involves laboratory testing of a person’s DNA to determine gene variations that can predict how a person will respond to medications. Test results can identify which medications will be effective, avoiding the use of medications that would have little or no effect, or many side effects.

For example, there are many medications available to help treat depression, but these drugs can take several weeks to take effect and for a person to feel any improvement. And in many cases, after several weeks, there is no improvement, so the individual is weaned off the first drug and on to the next choice. In the meantime, the person continues to suffer, valuable time is lost, and there’s no assurance that round two will go any better. An effective medication may be found eventually, but months or even years could go by.

Had the individual been introduced to the right medication from the start, they would have been spared months of suffering. In many cases, that’s what pharmacogenomics can provide.

Pharmacogenomics explained

Pharmacogenomic testing is done with a simple cheek swab, and lets a doctor prescribe medications more precisely based on an individual’s DNA.

Toronto-based health care provider Medcan says that while there are many factors that affect our responses to drugs – such as height, weight, gender, and age – anywhere from 20% to 95% of the variation in how a person responds to medication can be directly linked to genetic differences, and specifically the differences in how they metabolize a given drug: http://www.medcan.com/medcan-insights/workforce-wellness/reduce-disability-absenteeism-costs/.

For example, if a person is a fast metabolizer, he or she may need more of a given drug or more frequent doses; if he or she is a slow metabolizer, lower doses of a drug may be necessary to avoid an overdose.

And this is not a “one day we’ll be living on Mars” future possibility. This type of testing is happening right now. In fact, it may be coming to a pharmacy near you soon. The B.C. Pharmacy Association has already conducted trials with an Australian genetic testing company: http://www.benefitscanada.com/benefits/health-benefits/pharmacogenomic-testing-to-be-available-in-pharmacies-across-canada-93665.

As estate litigators, we’re used to dealing with “end of life” issues. It’s nice to find a simple test that can enhance “quality of life”, while we’re here to enjoy it.

Thank you for reading … Enjoy the rest of your day.
Suzana Popovic-Montag