Skip NavigationMEDICINES FOR YOU: Studying How Your Genes Can Make a Difference
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Q&A

Q&A Aren't prescribed medicines already safe and effective?
For the most part, yes. But medicines are not one-size-fits-all. While typical doses work pretty well for most people, some medicines don't work at all in certain people or the medicines can cause annoying, sometimes life-threatening, side effects.
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Q&A Why do people react differently to medicines?
As medicines move through the body, they interact with thousands of molecules called proteins. Because each person is genetically unique, we all have tiny differences in the make-up and amounts of these proteins, which can affect the way medicines do their jobs.
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Q&A Who pays for the study of genes and medicines?
The National Institutes of Health provides money to scientists at universities and medical centers who come up with the best plans for carrying out research on how genes cause people to respond differently to medicines.
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Q&A Why should my tax dollars be spent on medical research that is not directly related to specific diseases?
Curing and preventing disease is the National Institutes of Health's highest priority. Research on how people respond differently to medicines will make current and future treatments for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and asthma safer and more effective. A bonus of this type of research will be a better understanding of the roles many different genes play in causing or contributing to these and other diseases.
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Q&A Who participates in this research?
National Institutes of Health-funded scientists across the country recruit volunteers who reflect America's rich population diversity. Research of this type relies upon studying many different people with a broad range of genetic make-ups to find the small, but normal, genetic differences among all humans.
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Q&A Why should I participate in this research?
Although participating in a medical research study cannot guarantee any benefits to an individual, these important studies ensure that the best new treatments are proven to work before they make their way into the lives of large numbers of patients.
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Q&A Will participating in this kind of study have any effects on my health?
Most of these research studies involve drawing a blood sample or rubbing the inside of a volunteer's cheek with a cotton swab to collect cells. Scientists get DNA—the genetic material—from these samples. There are no significant health risks associated with this type of test.
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Q&A Will I need to take medicine to participate in this research?
Not usually. However, some pharmacogenetic studies may involve asking a research participant to take a medicine in addition to providing a DNA sample. People who volunteer for this type of study are fully informed of potential risks.
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Q&A What happens to my DNA sample?
Scientists store the DNA information provided by your sample in a research database. Your DNA sample will only be used for the research explained to you before you agree to participate. You may also be asked if your DNA sample could be used for certain future medical research studies. That decision is entirely up to you.
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Q&A What about my privacy?
The privacy of all people participating in this research is protected. Scientists will not match your name or other information with the DNA information that is recorded in the research database.
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Q&A Will the researchers tell me what they learn about my DNA?
That depends on the design of the research study. The steps that make sure no one knows a DNA sample came from you mean that the scientists would not be able to provide you with specific information about your health. However, the results of the study will most likely be published in a scientific journal, advancing medical knowledge and helping many others.
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Q&A Is pharmacogenetic testing available now?
Currently, most pharmacogenetic testing is done on a research basis, although more widespread testing may become available in a few years. The Food and Drug Administration is developing new rules about including pharmacogenetic information, when available, in material that health care providers use when prescribing medicines.

 

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