Physicians have practiced precision medicine, defined as the tailoring of medical treatment by taking into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments and lifestyles, for decades. The main difference today is that technological advances have given us greater power to combine comprehensive data collected over time about an individual to help provide appropriate care.
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The precision medicine initiative, now known as the All of Us Research Program, launched by the National Institutes of Health, is an ambitious effort to gather data for over a million people living in the U.S. It will likely accelerate precision medicine research with the goal of eventually benefiting everyone by providing information that healthcare providers can use in the clinic. However, there are aspects of precision medicine that have emerged, or are beginning to emerge, in different clinics across the country and are being used to benefit patients today.
Pharmacogenomics (PGx), the study of genetic variations that cause individuals to respond differently to medications, is the most widely used form of precision medicine today. Virtually all of us harbor at least one genetic change that predisposes us to metabolize a common medication differently than the average person. A PGx panel with multiple genes can provide gene-drug guidelines for dozens of medications, including common ones like Warfarin, Clopidogrel or various antidepressants.
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In addition to government initiatives, PGx and precision medicine is being fueled by the decreasing cost of genomic testing and growing consumer interest in it. More than 50% of adults are interested in genetic testing, and 6% indicate that they have already undergone it, according to patient surveys.