July 26, 2017

Personalized Medicine Can Prevent Negative Drug Reactions – So, What Is Personalized Medicine?

By Lynn G. Dressler, DrPH
Director of Personalized Medicine, Mission Health

Have you ever taken a medication that didn’t work for you or made you feel bad? The reason could be found in your genes. The Personalized Medicine Program at Mission Health uses your genetics to help predict how you will respond to certain drugs.

So, what is personalized medicine, exactly? And how does it work?

The Personalized Medicine Program at Mission focuses on reducing drug side effects and improving the likelihood that a drug will work for you. Personalized medicine looks at your genetic make-up (or in cancer the genetic makeup of a patient’s tumor) to try to predict which drugs will work for you or which drugs are likely to give you a bad side effect. Personalized medicine testing does not look at every drug on the market; only a certain set of drugs that have a high evidence base for clinical care.

The Personalized Medicine Program at Mission provides a consultative clinic that was developed to help physicians and patients better manage medications and help predict future medication responses. Patients undergo the following three steps when they visit the clinic:

  1. Meet with our multidisciplinary team including a medical geneticist and certified genetic counselor from Mission Fullerton Genetics Center and the Personalized Medicine Program’s clinical pharmacist, who is specialized in the genetics of drug response.
  2. Receive education about the benefits and limitations of genetic testing for drug response.
  3. If you choose testing, we will swab your cheek and send the sample to the testing laboratory. A follow-up visit will be scheduled to review your test results. No changes to care will be made, only a consultation to review results. The clinical pharmacist will provide you and your referring physician with the laboratory results and a clinical summary interpreting the results.

This innovative program has the potential to avoid the trial-and-error approach to drug treatment for several chronic diseases, including cancer. Building on advances in genomic medicine, personalized medicine testing provides you and your healthcare provider with information that could help minimize bad side effects and maximize the effectiveness of certain prescription drugs.

Mission Health is one of the few community health systems in the U.S. to develop a Personalized Medicine Program. Currently these programs are mainly found at major medical centers and institutions. The services of our program include education, training and clinical consultation for you and your physician. At Mission Health, we want to provide these services for you locally.


Lynn G. Dressler, DrPH, is the Director of Personalized Medicine at Mission Health.  

Visit mission-health.org/personalizedmedicine to learn more about the Personalized Medicine Program and our services, including how your physician can refer you to the Personalized Medicine Clinic.

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