Pharmacogenomics: Introduction

Last updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2024

NB: You can download  a PDF of the whole text without the interactive Learning exercises, and a one-page summary.

☞ Why this subject matters...

Listen to Dr Hayley Wickens, Consultant Pharmacist Genomic Medicine from the Central and South Genomic Medicine Service Alliance (GMSA) explain the importance of pharmacogenomics in ensuring that patients benefit from their medicines and their risk of adverse effects is reduced.

Learning outcomes 

Although the Medicines Learning Portal aims to support NHS hospital pharmacists in their first 1,000 days of practice, this specially commissioned tutorial is to support all pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and trainees working in primary and/or secondary care who currently have limited experience working with pharmacogenomic information.

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to:

  • Discuss how genomic data may be used in the prediction, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.
  • Describe how pharmacogenomic information is currently used in the NHS to support safe and effective personalised prescribing of medicines for patients. 
  • Discuss the practical and ethical considerations around applying, handling and storing the pharmacogenomic information of individual patients.

You should allow 60 minutes to complete this tutorial, including the Learning exercises.


If you are a hospital trainee pharmacist, this tutorial may help you achieve GPhC learning outcomes such as these:

  • LO 1 Demonstrate empathy and keep the person at the centre of their approach to care at all times
  • LO 2 Work in partnership with people to support and empower them in shared decision-making about their health and wellbeing 
  • LO 5 Proactively support people to make safe and effective use of their medicines and devices 
  • LO 16 Apply professional judgement in all circumstances, taking legal and ethical reasoning into account
  • LO 21 Apply the science behind pharmacy in all activities
  • LO 29 Apply the principles of clinical therapeutics, pharmacology and genomics to make effective use of medicines for people
  • LO 47 Develop, lead and apply effective strategies to improve the quality of care and safe use of medicines

If you are a foundation pharmacist, this tutorial may assist with meeting certain competencies from the RPS framework including:

  • 1.1 Applies evidence-based clinical knowledge to make suitable recommendations or take appropriate actions 
  • 1.6 Uses own pharmaceutical knowledge to positively impact the usage and stewardship of medicines at an individual and population level.
  • 1.7 Undertakes a holistic clinical review of a person’s medicines to ensure they are appropriate.
  • 2.1 Keeps the individual at the centre of their approach to care at all times.
  • 3.1 Draws upon own knowledge and up-to-date guidance to effectively make decisions appropriately and with confidence.
  • 3.2 Critically appraises appropriate information to make a decision in an efficient and systematic manner; adopts evidence-informed solutions.
  • 3.3 Demonstrate awareness of where to seek appropriate information to solve problems and make decisions. 
  • 3.5 Manages uncertainty and possible risk appropriately, while ensuring high attention to detail is maintained when making decisions regarding the individual receiving care.
  • 3.6 Demonstrates an understanding that data can support improving care; values the importance of the skills required for the interpretation, analysis and the effective use of data within clinical practice; considers how to use data to improve the outcomes for individuals.
  • 4.8 Recognises the changes to and the opportunities within the future role of pharmacists, modifying own approach when required.
  • 6.5 Uses effective questioning when working with individuals receiving care or other healthcare professionals
  • 6.6 Consults with individuals through open conversation; creates an environment to support shared-decision making around personal healthcare outcomes.

Continuing professional development

Finally, here are some CPD activities you could consider:

★  After you have completed this tutorial, reflect upon the potential impact that pharmacogenomics may have on your clinical decision-making in the future.
★  Arrange to shadow a colleague who is working in an area where pharmacogenomic data are already routinely being used (e.g. oncology, cystic fibrosis).
★  Speak to a patient who has undergone pharmacogenomic testing. What was their experience of the process and what has been the impact upon them.