Making Prescriptions Safer for You

How one blood test can improve your care

blood samples in test tubes

What if a simple blood test could help your doctor predict whether you will experience severe, even life-threatening, side effects from a medication?  Or that the same blood test could help your doctor decide what dosage would be best to use initially? Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Personalized Healthcare is working to make it easier for doctors to order this type of pharmacogenetic testing. This new initiative, called the Personalized Medication Program, helps ensure safer, more efficient, cost-effective care.

What is pharmacogenetics?

Pharmacogenetics is the study of how a person’s genetic makeup can affect his or her response to drugs.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes pharmacogenetic testing is critical for certain medications before a doctor can safely prescribe them to patients. These medications carry a strong warning called a “boxed warning.”

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Cleveland Clinic doctors currently consider pharmacogenetic testing for any medication that carries this warning. If you take one of these medications, you can be sure that your doctor is aware that testing is important for your care.

The Personalized Medication Program improves this process by flagging these medications for your doctor and alerting him or her of any previous pharmacogenetic testing.

Right now, there are two medications in the program, with plans to add more in the future.

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How does the Personalized Medication Program work?

So what happens if your doctor feels you need a medication in the program? Here’s what you can expect during your visit:

  • As your doctor is viewing your electronic medical record and ordering the prescription, an alert appears on the screen reminding your doctor that pharmacogenetic testing is recommended before prescribing this medication.
  • If you have not been tested yet, the program will help your doctor order the test.
  • If you have already been tested, the program will show your doctor your test results, which will prevent you from having to be tested again.

The results of your pharmacogenetic testing will help your doctor decide if the medication is safe for you to take. For some medications, pharmacogenetic test results will determine which dose will be best for you. In these cases, the Personalized Medication Program will help your doctor decide what dosage you should use to begin treatment.

All of this adds up to safer, more efficient, and cost-effective care for you.    

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Kathryn Teng, MD

Kathryn Teng, MD, is Director of the Center for Personalized Healthcare and leads Cleveland Clinic’s efforts to integrate personalized healthcare into standard practice.
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