Frequently Asked Questions
What is genetic testing?
Genetic tests look for changes in a person's DNA that may be associated with risk of developing a disease, or how a person responds to medicine. Results from genetic testing may be relevant to family members of the person being tested. You can read more about genetic testing at the National Human Genome Research Institute
If prescribed medicines are safe, why should I not take them?
Approved drugs are safe and effective for the majority of people. However, not everyone responds in the same way to the same drug. Just as certain people are extra sensitive to alcohol, certain people are extra sensitive to particular drugs. Very often sensitivity to a drug is based on a person's DNA.
What is pharmacogenomics? What is pharmacogenetics?
Pharmacogenomics (or pharmacogenetics) is the study of how genetic differences affect a person’s response to drugs. You can read more about pharmacogenomics at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
What is the difference between pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics?
The term 'pharmacogenetics' has been used for several decades to describe how responses to drugs are affected by heritability. 'Pharmacogenomics' is a newer term, and also looks at how DNA affects drugs response. In practice, the two terms are used interchangeably.
How is pharmacogenomic information used today?
Healthcare professionals are starting to use information about a person's genetics to prescribe drugs. This is known as 'pharmacogenomics' or 'pharmacogenetics' and is still a relatively new area of medicine. Your DNA includes information on how you will respond to a drug. Knowing about this information from your DNA can help find the right drug for you. You can read more about pharmacogenomics at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
What is a genetic counselor?
A genetic counselor is a health professional trained in providing information and support about genetics, genetic disorders, and inherited conditions. They can help you interpret the results of genetic tests and medical data, and can also provide counseling and advice. You can read more about genetic counseling and find a counselor at the National Society of Genetics Counselors website.
Can results of genetic tests be used against me?
Genetic tests are intended to help people make decisions about their health and to help doctors and other health professionals to provide better treatment. However, many people worry that results of genetic tests will be used against them - for example, to deny health insurance or to discriminate in job hiring. You are protected under a a Federal law, called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which generally makes it illegal for health insurance companies, group health plans, and most employers to discriminate against you based on your genetic information. This law may protect you in the following ways:
- Health insurance companies and group health plans may NOT request your genetic information from this research.
- Health insurance companies and group health plans may NOT use your genetic information when making decisions regarding your eligibility or premiums.
- Employers with 15 or more employees may NOT use your genetic information that we get from this research when making a decision to hire, promote, or fire you or when setting the terms of your employment.
This Federal law does not protect you against genetic discrimination by companies that sell life insurance, disability insurance, or long-term care insurance. There may be other risks that are not known at this time. Tell the study investigator or study staff right away if you have any problems.
You can read more about the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act here.
What do I do if I have questions or want more information?
If you have questions about results you have received, we strongly recommend that you contact your doctor. The Results and Resources section of this website have additional information that you may find useful. You can also use the Contact Us section to find the research coordinator for your institution. Finally, you can read more about genetics and genomics at the National Human Genome Research Institute.