Potential utility of precision medicine for older adults with polypharmacy: A case series study

Joseph Finkelstein, Carol Friedman, George Hripcsak, Manuel Cabrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Pharmacogenomic (PGx) testing has been increasingly used to optimize drug regimens; however, its potential in older adults with polypharmacy has not been systematically studied. In this hypothesis-generating study, we employed a case series design to explore potential utility of PGx testing in older adults with polypharmacy and to highlight barriers in implementing this methodology in routine clinical practice. Three patients with concurrent chronic heart and lung disease aged 74, 78, and 83 years and whose medication regimen comprised 26, 17, and 18 drugs, correspondingly, served as cases for this study. PGx testing identified major genetic polymorphisms in the first two cases. The first case was identified as “CYP3A4/CYP3A5 poor metabolizer”, which affected metabolism of eleven prescribed drugs. The second case had “CYP2D6 rapid metabolizer” status affecting three prescribed medications, two of which were key drugs for managing this patient’s chronic conditions. Both these patients also had VKORC1 allele *A, resulting in higher sensitivity to warfarin. All cases demonstrated a significant number of potential drug-drug interactions. Both patients with significant drug-gene interactions had a history of frequent hospitalizations (six and 23, respectively), whereas the person without impaired cytochrome P450 enzyme activity had only two acute episodes in the last 5 years, although he was older and had multiple comorbidities. Since all patients received guideline-concordant therapy from the same providers and were adherent to their drug regimen, we hypothesized that genetic polymorphism may represent an additional risk factor for higher hospitalization rates in older adults with polypharmacy. However, evidence to support or reject this hypothesis is yet to be established. Studies evaluating clinical impact of PGx testing in older adults with polypharmacy are warranted. For practical implementation of pharmacogenomics in routine clinical care, besides providing convincing evidence of its clinical effectiveness, multiple barriers must be addressed. Introduction of intelligent clinical decision support in electronic medical record systems is required to address complexities of simultaneous drug-gene and drug-drug interactions in older adults with polypharmacy. Physician training, clear clinical pathways, evidence-based guidelines, and patient education materials are necessary for unlocking full potential of pharmacogenomics into routine clinical care of older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-45
Number of pages15
JournalPharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine
StatePublished - 15 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Case series
  • Elderly
  • Pharmacogenomics
  • Polypharmacy
  • Precision medicine


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