The Role of Pharmacogenomics in Drug Therapy

Pharmacogenomics is gaining popularity among healthcare providers to improve medication therapy. But as this type of therapy becomes more widespread, with the increase in genetic testing it entails, there are concerns about patient privacy and possible discriminatory practices that might occur.

This also raises issues for pharmacists who rely on pharmacogenomics for treating patients. Pharmacists need to become familiar with the legal issues involved in using such genetic information. They need to take necessary precautions to insure patient privacy and guard against discrimination against patients based on their genetic blueprint.

Legal Issues – Health Plans and Employers

There are legal provisions in place to help protect patients in this area, the most notable being the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. The law is designed to protect patients against discrimination by employers and health insurance companies based on the results of genetic testing of an individual or any family members connected to the individual.

The law makes it illegal for an insurance company to use the genetic testing results to determine a person’s eligibility for health insurance, premiums or terms of coverage. The law also prevents companies from using any health information of a person’s family members in making decisions about coverage.

The law also covers employers and what they can do with genetic information. Employers cannot use such information to discriminate against anyone when making decisions about hiring and firing, compensation and benefits, and conditions of employment. The law also makes it illegal for an employer to retaliate against or harass any employee based on genetic data.

The law does include several instances when it is acceptable for employers to obtain genetic information from employees, such as when a company offers genetic or health services, for law enforcement purposes or to comply with state or federal family and medical leave laws.

Wellness Programs

The law has been updated to include company wellness programs, specifying that these programs can only be voluntary. There can be no negative consequences for not participating in one, and genetic data can only be obtained to help people improve their well-being.

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