This Drug’s For You: How Your Genes Can Affect Response To Medications

By Christina Aquilante, Pharm.D.

Genetic factors (or DNA) are those that people are born with and that make each person unique. Genetic variations or changes in DNA can also affect the way medications work in the body. This area of research is called pharmacogenomics, a combination of pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions). It is well known that medications do not work the same way in all people.  Pharmacogenomics research can help us understand why people respond differently to medications.

Christina Aquilante, Pharm.D., is a clinical researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Her lab studies how genetics affect response to medications used to treat heart and metabolic diseases.

For example, Dr. Aquilante’s team recently showed that heart transplant patients with a certain genetic makeup need about twice the dose of a medication that suppresses the immune system than patients with a different genetic makeup.

Her lab is taking this research one step further to find out if these genetic differences can help predict side effects such as kidney problems associated with these types of medications after heart transplant.

Ultimately, the goal of pharmacogenomic research studies, such as those conducted with Biobank samples, is to better understand how genetic information can be used to help health care providers choose the best medication and dose for their patients in the hopes of improving patient response and minimizing the risk of side effects.


Christina Aquilante, Pharm.D.