According to a recent article published in American Family Physician “Pharmacogenetics: Using Genetic Data to Guide Drug Therapy (2015), pharmacogenetics is being more widely used by family physicians and the number of patients who are interested in acquiring genetic information is growing.
The Components of Pharmacogenetics Testing
Pharmacogenetics involves genetic variations that code for drug metabolizing enzymes. It also involves how a medication breaks down in the body and how the body responds to the medication. The most common forms of genetic variations are single nucleotide polymorphisms.
The differences in single nucleotide polymorphisms or other polymorphisms result in diverse types of genes or alleles, the American Family Physician explains. Individuals inherit these alleles that “govern expression of the gene and the cor¬responding enzyme or protein.” As a result, these genetic differences influence how the drug reacts in the body and how the body metabolizes the drug.
Genetic Variability Can Alter the Effects of Drugs
Studies have demonstrated there is a connection between genetic variations and changes in drug levels and effects.
CYP2D6 and Opioids
The enzyme activity of CYP2D6 is volatile because of single nucleotide polymorphisms and other variations of CYP2D6. American Family Physician indicates codeine metabolism occurs in 90% of patients and results in normal morphine formation. However, 1% to 2% of people are ultra rapid metabolizers of codeine signifying they have an increased risk of morphine toxicity.
American Family Physician analyzed a study involving the death of a breastfed infant and a mother who was an ultra rapid metabolizer of codeine. The study demonstrated the infant died of morphine intoxication. There was opioid toxicity in the breast milk, which passed onto the infant.
They recommend pharmacogenetic testing for patients who are possible poor or ultra rapid metabolizers of opioids.
CYP2C19 and Clopidrogrel
Clopidogrel is primarily metabolized in the enzyme CYP2C19. CYP2C19 is highly polymorphic and 80% of individuals metabolize clopidogrel normally. However, 18% to 45% of people have intermediate enzyme activity and 2% to 15% have poor enzyme activity.
American Family Physician presents meta-analyses of CYP2C19 poor metabolizers. Poor CYP2C19 metabolizers taking clopidogrel treatment and undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention have a higher risk of cardiovascular death, myocardial infraction, stroke, and stent thrombosis.
These results lead to the recommendation that clinicians should consider alternative treatments, such as pharmacogenetic testing of CYP2C19 to guide antiplatelet therapy.
The Benefits of Pharmacogenetics
American Family Physician examined the clinical implications of pharmacogenetic testing and the various resources available and developing to support the usage of pharmacogenetics in clinical settings. They conclude “pharmacogenetic testing can be a practical tool to optimize drug therapy and avoid medication adverse effects.”