Cone Health Uses Genetic Data to Fine Tune Medication


A person’s genetic makeup can determine how well a drug works.

Greensboro – A new tool at Cone Health gives people more confidence that the drugs prescribed work as well as their doctors hope. It compares prescriptions to a person’s DNA, resulting in the most compatible prescriptions possible. This is the latest phase in a broader roll out of personalized medicine at Cone Health.

Not everyone reacts the same way to a prescription drug. An individual’s DNA may mean that a drug doesn’t work very well, doesn’t work at all, or creates an unwanted reaction. Doctors strive to find the best medications for the specific patient, but that can take time—especially for people with chronic conditions who use several medicines. A program called ActX pharmacogenomic testing may change that experience.


A conversation between a person and their provider determines if pharmacogenomic testing may help. If so, the individual provides a DNA sample. This can be done by collecting saliva at home or in a clinic or by taking a blood sample. The sample is sent to ActX where the DNA is analyzed, and the information placed in the person’s electronic health record. When the person’s doctor goes into the medical record with a prescription, they will be alerted about the medication’s effectiveness or potential adverse reactions. This is all based on their patient’s genetic makeup.

“This tool has the power to transform the understanding and treatment of diseases by using data to tailor treatment and medication to the person,” says Dr. Martin Portillo, chief medical officer, Cone Health Medical Group, cancer center program. “This will help people avoid unneeded tests, treatments and doctor visits.”

Many health systems—including Cone Health—use some genetic information in treating patients. Cone Health Cancer Center’s Dr. Timothy Finnegan points out, with ActX now working with Cone Health’s electronic health record, providers can get real-time alerts for medications and hereditary risks as well as suggested actions to take in response. ActX covers most U.S. prescription drugs for which there is evidence of a genomic effect. “ActX places the results of testing, including over 600,000 pieces of genetic information, into the background,” says Finnegan. “ActX helps providers make the right choices at the right time for each patient, so we are not overwhelming the doctors with information they can’t keep up with.”

The exact cost of the test depends on the patient’s insurance plan.

Those taking part in the ActX program are protected by a federal law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA states that genomic information should neither disqualify patients from health insurance nor affect its cost, and employers should not discriminate against people based on genomic information. People can opt in or out of their data being used for research by ActX when they register for the service.

More information on GINA can be found at:

NOTE: U.S. federal law does NOT prevent other insurance companies (such as life, disability or long-term care) from using genomic information to determine eligibility for coverage.

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