Genetic testing can be used to personalize prescriptions and dosages.
Drug dosing is all about balance. Doctors need to prescribe enough of a drug to treat the problem, but not so much as to cause toxicity or other issues. Now, simple genetic tests can help them hit that sweet spot.
This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Dina Fine Maron. Got a minute?
Factors like age, weight and kidney function influence how well a drug works. But genetics often play a role, too. Take the common painkiller codeine. Typically, the body makes an enzyme that breaks down codeine into morphine, which muzzles pain.
But some people have gene variants that lead to low enzyme levels. For them, almost no codeine is converted into morphine, and there’s no pain relief. As many as 10 percent of people are in this predicament. Another small percentage of people make too much of the enzyme. That means too much morphine, and the possibility of a fatal overdose.
Genetic variation affects how people respond to other drugs as well. Multiple studies suggest that half of hospital patients could have genes that fuel issues with their medications.
It is not yet part of standard medical practice to match drugs to your genetic makeup. But a few hospitals that are offering such tests are hoping that someday soon that will change.
Thanks for the minute! For Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, I’m Dina Fine Maron.
Executive Producer: Eliene Augenbraun
Producer: Lydia Chain
Writer and Narrator: Dina Fine Maron