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Jeanette McCarthy Returns to Discuss the Value of Pharmacogenetics in Clinical Practice


We’ve received many questions about the challenges clinicians face in knowing when to use pharmacogenetic tests in practice. So we invited our resident "genome educator" back! In this episode Jeanette McCarthy, co-founder of Precision Medicine Advisors, returns to the podcast to address those questions and discuss some of the issues health care providers face. 

Pharmacogenomics in Clinical Practice - Jeanette McCarthy
Listen to the full episode above and download the full PDF transcript here.

When asked for her take on the biggest barriers to using pharmacogenetic testing, Jeanette immediately pointed to cost and the challenges of getting insurance companies to cover tests that lack evidence of clinical utility. She points out that published, prospective studies that could demonstrate clinical utility aren’t there— again because of cost.


In addition to this catch 22, Jeanette says in general, many healthcare providers lack confidence in their own knowledge of genomics, how to access information about pharmacogenomic tests, and which patients may be candidates. And, finally, she says that practices struggle to integrate testing into an existing clinical workflow.


After discussing the need for education to overcome those barriers, Jeanette also noted the need to prove effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. She touched on how one evaluates the validity of a pharmacogenomic test that will be used to help reduce the side-effects or improve the efficacy of drugs. The first, she says, is the test's analytical validity or how well the assay actually detects the variance it is supposed to detect. The second is clinical validity or how well this variant can predict a response to a drug. And thirdly is the clinical utility. 


We wondered how many people can benefit from such pharmacogenomic test if they are in fact seen as useful predictors of drug side effects and efficacy. Jeanette’s answer: Everybody. She says that if you look at the five or six most commonly used drugs for which there are pharmacogenomic tests available, just about everyone has an actionable variant. Her goal is to help implement these tests into practice through online courses, webinars, in-person workshops and boot camps.


Jeanette’s insights into the benefits of pharmacogenomic testing and barriers to its clinical use are just the tip of the iceberg. Listen to the podcast in its entirety to learn more about her role at Precision Medicine Advisors and how she is educating everyone from health care providers to pharmaceutical sales people about the benefits of pharmacogenomic testing.


Listen to the full episode above to hear more about how Jeanette is tackling precision medicine barriers through her range of education courses. And tune in to her first appearance with us: Using Education to Overcome Barriers in Implementing Precision Medicine.

Download the full transcript here (pdf).


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About Our Guest

Jeanette McCarthy, MPH, PhD, is the founder of Precision Medicine Advisors.

is a UC Berkeley trained genetic epidemiologist and spent the early part of her career in industry at Millennium Pharmaceuticals before transitioning to academia. She currently holds adjunct faculty positions at Duke University and UCSF. Her previous research had focused on the genetic underpinnings of complex diseases, both infectious and chronic. 

She has become a leading educator in the field of genomic and precision medicine involved in demystifying genomics for non-technical audiences, including health care providers, patients and other stakeholders. In 2014 she helped launch the first consumer-facing magazine in this field, Genome, where she served as editor-in-chief until 2016.

She teaches genomic and precision medicine through UCSF and UC Berkeley Extension and online through Coursera and through the Precision Medicine Academy ( She also designs and delivers custom workshops and courses to international audiences and advises companies on strategic and technical aspects of precision medicine. Jeanette is coauthor of the new book, Precision Medicine: A Guide to Genomics in Clinical Practice (2016, McGraw Hill Education).

Precision Medicine Advisors:

Twitter: @Genomeducator

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