Researcher holding pill with overlay of molecular structure diagram

Pharmacogenomics in Patient Care

Drug-gene testing is also called pharmacogenomics or pharmacogenetics. All terms characterize the study of how your genes affect your body's response to medications. The word "pharmacogenomics" is combined from the words "pharmacology" (the study of the uses and effects of medications) and "genomics" (the study of genes and their functions).

Your body has thousands of genes that you inherited from your parents. Genes determine which characteristics you have, such as eye color and blood type. Some genes are responsible for how your body processes medications. Pharmacogenomic tests look for changes or variants in these genes that may determine whether a medication could be an effective treatment for you or whether you could have side effects to a specific medication.

Patient Information: Pharmacogenomics — Finding the Right Medication for You (PDF)

Pharmacogenomic testing is one tool that can help your doctor determine the best medication for you. Your doctor also considers other factors such as your age, lifestyle, other medications you are taking and your overall health when choosing the right treatment for you.

Mayo Clinic supports various research and clinical initiatives to bring pharmacogenomic testing into clinical practice. Your doctor may review and recommend pharmacogenomic testing when needed to address a specific health concern. Mayo Clinic also offers predictive services, where pharmacogenomic testing may be ordered for future use.

Genomic Sequencing Animation

Genomic sequencing is a process for analyzing a sample of DNA taken from your blood. In the lab, technicians extract DNA and prepare it for sequencing.

Current limitations of pharmacogenomic tests

Current limitations of pharmacogenomic testing include:

  • One single pharmacogenomic test cannot be used to determine how you will respond to all medications. You may need more than one pharmacogenomic test if you are taking more than one medication.
  • Pharmacogenomic tests are not available for all medications. Because pharmacogenomic tests are available only for certain medications, your doctor determines if you need to have a pharmacogenomic test prior to beginning a specific treatment.
  • There are currently no pharmacogenomic tests for aspirin and many over-the-counter pain relievers.

Pharmacogenomics Program Animation

The Pharmacogenomics Program investigates how variations in genes affect response to medications, thereby using a patient's genetic profile to predict a drug's efficacy, guide dosage and improve patient safety.

Infographic illustrating that individual responses to the same medication can vary

Pharmacogenomic testing helps clinicians predict which medications will most likely produce desired responses in different patients.