How Your DNA Can Impact the Medications You Take

Regularly taking upwards of five or more prescribed medications per day is more common than you may think. Approximately 55 million people across the nation fall into that category, and with every new medication added to the mix, the chance of experiencing complications rises.

This is especially dangerous for those with chronic health conditions, such as heart failure.

The Christ Hospital is minimizing that risk through pharmacogenomics, an emerging science that uses a patient's unique DNA to proactively identify and predict adverse drug interactions.

"A staggering 99 percent of the population is estimated to have some type of genetic factor that affects how a variety of medications are metabolized," said Burns Blaxall, PhD, Founding Executive Director of Precision Health at The Christ Hospital Health Network. "Without this information, patients run the risk of taking drug combinations and dosages that don't benefit them and, at worst, could result in adverse reactions that may threaten their health."   

Our genetic makeup is proven to affect how we metabolize medications, which dictates the amount of medication our bodies need. Such was the case for two local women whose lives were negatively affected by adverse reactions to prescribed medications.

Genetic testing showed why Virginia wasn't responding to her prescriptions

Throughout her 64 years, Virginia Bierman struggled with multiple health challenges. Despite being under a doctor's care, her health continued to deteriorate—without any apparent cause—and left her feeling fatigued and depressed. "I had so many specialists—endocrinologist, nephrologist, rheumatologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist—plus my regular doctor," said Bierman. "I ended up taking a variety of drugs to address one problem after another, and I just assumed they worked the same for everybody."

Virginia Bierman and her familyHer primary care physician at The Christ Hospital encouraged her to participate in a genetic pharmacogenomic study, and she agreed. After a quick cheek swab at her doctor's office, she was contacted by a pharmacist certified in pharmacogenomics who assessed that Bierman was having trouble metabolizing her blood pressure medication and the statins for her heart disease.

Although she was prescribed a standard dose for both, it was as if she only received half the prescribed medication of the one and twice the amount of the other.

"Before we received Virginia's test results, it appeared that she simply wasn't responding well to the medications," said Jennifer Wick, PharmD, MPH, BCACP, Assistant Director of Pharmacy for Ambulatory Services. "With genetic testing, we were able to confirm that she was on the correct medication, but at an incorrect dose and adjusted her prescription to ensure the medication is metabolized correctly."

Bierman said it was amazing how quickly her health stabilized and now feels so much better. "Finding out how I metabolized these drugs was scary to hear, let me tell you. But I am so grateful. Everybody should have a personalized review of their medications."

Kelly says medication genetic testing gave her life back

Kelly Tucker found herself in a similar situation.

For over 15 years, she sought medical attention for her diabetes and heart disease. After following the instructions for taking her medications, her diabetes continued to spiral out of control and her heart disease worsened to the point of needing stents to keep the blood flowing to her heart.

Kelly Tucker"It was a nightmare," she said. "Every muscle in my body hurt, I became lethargic, and I couldn't function. I was just really sick. I swore the medication was making my condition worse, but my previous doctors just shrugged me off. Until I was connected with my current doctor at The Christ Hospital, I'd given up hope of ever living a normal life."

Her new primary care provider at The Christ Hospital suggested pharmacogenomic testing, and Kelly agreed. A follow-up with a pharmacogenomics-certified pharmacist in the office revealed that she was right—her prescribed medications were working against her.

"Kelly's medications were not being processed appropriately," said Wick. "We were immediately able to switch her prescriptions, which reduced her risk of having a stroke. In instances such as Kelly's, where there's so much at stake, it is absolutely critical that patients are redirected to the correct medication."

Tucker said she finally felt that someone was listening to her. "My new PCP was an incredible advocate for me. He wouldn't give up and was determined to solve my problem. I've been on this new regimen for a while, and it is exactly what I need. I'm so grateful to have my life back"

Pharmacogenomics at The Christ Hospital Health Network

Bierman and Tucker are just two of the individuals to benefit from the innovative pharmacogenomics program at The Christ Hospital—and the program keeps on growing.

The hospital's pharmacogenomics-certified pharmacists work across all of its primary care practices, with three more in specialty practices, to optimize medications in cardiology, oncology, and joint surgery. These locations stretch across Greater Cincinnati from Union to Fort Wright, as far north as Mason, as far west as Harrison Avenue, and to the east in the Milford area.

"I just feel so grateful," said Virginia. "Everybody needs to get tested so they can have prescriptions that are dialed in and personalized just for them. Everyone needs to take advantage of this."

If you or a loved one are taking multiple medications, please protect your health and maximize the benefits of your medication by scheduling an evaluation with a primary care provider and pharmacist in The Christ Hospital Health Network. Click here to learn more about our pharmacogenomics program.


How Your DNA Can Impact the Medications You Take Learn how genetic medication counseling is helping patients achieve better outcomes by tailoring their prescriptions to their DNA.

Regularly taking upwards of five or more prescribed medications per day is more common than you may think. Approximately 55 million people across the nation fall into that category, and with every new medication added to the mix, the chance of experiencing complications rises.

This is especially dangerous for those with chronic health conditions, such as heart failure.

The Christ Hospital is minimizing that risk through pharmacogenomics, an emerging science that uses a patient's unique DNA to proactively identify and predict adverse drug interactions.

"A staggering 99 percent of the population is estimated to have some type of genetic factor that affects how a variety of medications are metabolized," said Burns Blaxall, PhD, Founding Executive Director of Precision Health at The Christ Hospital Health Network. "Without this information, patients run the risk of taking drug combinations and dosages that don't benefit them and, at worst, could result in adverse reactions that may threaten their health."   

Our genetic makeup is proven to affect how we metabolize medications, which dictates the amount of medication our bodies need. Such was the case for two local women whose lives were negatively affected by adverse reactions to prescribed medications.

Genetic testing showed why Virginia wasn't responding to her prescriptions

Throughout her 64 years, Virginia Bierman struggled with multiple health challenges. Despite being under a doctor's care, her health continued to deteriorate—without any apparent cause—and left her feeling fatigued and depressed. "I had so many specialists—endocrinologist, nephrologist, rheumatologist, pulmonologist, cardiologist—plus my regular doctor," said Bierman. "I ended up taking a variety of drugs to address one problem after another, and I just assumed they worked the same for everybody."

Virginia Bierman and her familyHer primary care physician at The Christ Hospital encouraged her to participate in a genetic pharmacogenomic study, and she agreed. After a quick cheek swab at her doctor's office, she was contacted by a pharmacist certified in pharmacogenomics who assessed that Bierman was having trouble metabolizing her blood pressure medication and the statins for her heart disease.

Although she was prescribed a standard dose for both, it was as if she only received half the prescribed medication of the one and twice the amount of the other.

"Before we received Virginia's test results, it appeared that she simply wasn't responding well to the medications," said Jennifer Wick, PharmD, MPH, BCACP, Assistant Director of Pharmacy for Ambulatory Services. "With genetic testing, we were able to confirm that she was on the correct medication, but at an incorrect dose and adjusted her prescription to ensure the medication is metabolized correctly."

Bierman said it was amazing how quickly her health stabilized and now feels so much better. "Finding out how I metabolized these drugs was scary to hear, let me tell you. But I am so grateful. Everybody should have a personalized review of their medications."

Kelly says medication genetic testing gave her life back

Kelly Tucker found herself in a similar situation.

For over 15 years, she sought medical attention for her diabetes and heart disease. After following the instructions for taking her medications, her diabetes continued to spiral out of control and her heart disease worsened to the point of needing stents to keep the blood flowing to her heart.

Kelly Tucker"It was a nightmare," she said. "Every muscle in my body hurt, I became lethargic, and I couldn't function. I was just really sick. I swore the medication was making my condition worse, but my previous doctors just shrugged me off. Until I was connected with my current doctor at The Christ Hospital, I'd given up hope of ever living a normal life."

Her new primary care provider at The Christ Hospital suggested pharmacogenomic testing, and Kelly agreed. A follow-up with a pharmacogenomics-certified pharmacist in the office revealed that she was right—her prescribed medications were working against her.

"Kelly's medications were not being processed appropriately," said Wick. "We were immediately able to switch her prescriptions, which reduced her risk of having a stroke. In instances such as Kelly's, where there's so much at stake, it is absolutely critical that patients are redirected to the correct medication."

Tucker said she finally felt that someone was listening to her. "My new PCP was an incredible advocate for me. He wouldn't give up and was determined to solve my problem. I've been on this new regimen for a while, and it is exactly what I need. I'm so grateful to have my life back"

Pharmacogenomics at The Christ Hospital Health Network

Bierman and Tucker are just two of the individuals to benefit from the innovative pharmacogenomics program at The Christ Hospital—and the program keeps on growing.

The hospital's pharmacogenomics-certified pharmacists work across all of its primary care practices, with three more in specialty practices, to optimize medications in cardiology, oncology, and joint surgery. These locations stretch across Greater Cincinnati from Union to Fort Wright, as far north as Mason, as far west as Harrison Avenue, and to the east in the Milford area.

"I just feel so grateful," said Virginia. "Everybody needs to get tested so they can have prescriptions that are dialed in and personalized just for them. Everyone needs to take advantage of this."

If you or a loved one are taking multiple medications, please protect your health and maximize the benefits of your medication by scheduling an evaluation with a primary care provider and pharmacist in The Christ Hospital Health Network. Click here to learn more about our pharmacogenomics program.


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