What is Pharmacogenetics?

Pharmacogenetics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.

Many drugs that are currently available are “one size fits all,” but they don’t work the same way for everyone. It can be difficult to predict who will benefit from a medication, who will not respond at all, and who will experience negative side effects (called adverse drug reactions).

Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are a significant cause of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States and are a are a long-standing and largely neglected major medical problem. ADRs, often called side effects, are not medical errors as they occur within the FDA-approved dosage and labeling recommendations. The recently reported genetically-based problems with Plavix and codeine reported by the FDA are a prime example of specific drugs creating ADRs.

Researchers are learning how inherited differences in genes affect the body’s response to medications. These genetic differences are used to predict whether a medication will be effective for a particular person and to help prevent adverse drug reactions.

Financial Consequences of Adverse Drug Reactions


Over 770,000 people are injured or die each year in hospitals from ADRs.


ADRs may cost up to $5.6 million each year per hospital depending on hospital size.


National hospital expenses to treat patients who suffer ADRs during hospitalization range between $1.56 and $5.6 billion annually.

Additional Financial Consequences:

  • $289 billion in added health care costs per year.

  • Medication Adherence for Chronic Disease.

  • HMOs spend more treating ADRs than on drugs.

  • ADRs are the cost leader for malpractice payouts.

  • Up to one-third of drug prescriptions are not needed and therefore wasted.

Assurance of Patient Compliance is Actively Promoted Through Insurers and Government Payers

  • Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs) are reduced by the practitioner being made aware of all medications the patient is taking both prescribed and non-prescribed ADRs cannot be predicted by patient characteristics or drug type.

  • Costs of ADRs include emergency department visits, hospitalizations and litigation.

  • Average costs for ADRs are up to $5,000 for outpatient and greater than $15,000 for inpatient occurrence.

To download PDF versions of available genetic tests, click below.


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