We all have been there: trying to make a best decision about something really complicated, like paying hundreds of $ for a medical test not covered by the health insurance. Genetic testing for mental health medications is in this category, at least for now. After glancing over a bunch of google ads, I was left with a dizzying array of product names (most containing a word “gene”), interlaced with informative and cautionary articles written by medical doctors.
Here is what I learned:
Why do a genetic test for medications? Good-bye guess-work. Hello personalized medicine.
Medical treatments are designed for an “average patient.” Some personal considerations – such as a patient’s age, lifestyle, and other medical issue – are already taken into account when a prescriber selects a drug. A DNA profile indicating the patient’s unique response to pharmaceuticals can guide them to select drugs that minimize harmful side effects and increase the likelihood you’ll receive the benefits expected from a given medication. There are thousands of researchers studying the cross-section of Pharmacology and Genetics, these are specialists in Pharmacogenomics testing.
Is it important to have a genetic test for treating the specific conditions, such as anxiety genetic testing or ADHD genetic testing?
Dr. Shannon Manzi, PharmD, director of the Clinical Pharmacogenomics Service at Boston Children’s Hospital, said it best “… promoting pharmacogenomic testing with application to only one disease state can cause more harm than good. Most genes influence how the body metabolizes not just one class of medications, but can influence many other drug classes as well, and to different degrees. Focusing only on one condition, such as ADHD, and ignoring the influence that genotype may have on other drug classes, such as medications for heart disease, can actually result in patient harm.”
There has been an explosion of knowledge over the past 10 years and researchers learn new things every day. While your DNA stays the same, the pharmacogenetics knowledge changes fast. New drug-gene correlations are uncovered by clinical researchers. To maximize value of the pharmacogenetics testing, some providers, such as Pillcheck, include automatic updates to your report. That way you can continue referencing it in any life situation, whenever medications come into play.
Pharmacogenomics testing is useful only if your prescriber applies the results.
While the science of pharmacogenomics has been around for decades, using it to improve the lives of patients is still new. Daily routine for most physicians is to make medication adjustments over time, or add more interventions. A more precise prescribing, which takes into account individual genetics, is a paradigm shift for most physicians.
Studies show that when a pharmacogenetic report is accompanied by a recommendation from a trusted expert, such as a trained clinical pharmacist, who knows loads about drug-gene interaction, doctors tend to have more confidence in how to adjust the treatment course. Also, physicians are trained to listen carefully to the patient’s “insider view” of the medical condition, taking into consideration personal attitudes and lifestyle habits.
Having your own personalized medication reference + recommendations provided by a specially trained clinical pharmacist gives you and your physician a much clearer path towards a truly effective treatment course.
- There is no magic pill. But with PGx testing you are more likely to get the right one for you. At the very least you will avoid the major side effects.
- Assistance with applying results. Many physicians lack training in interpreting test results. Clinical pharmacists trained in PGx play a leading role in devising an effective treatment program. You and your doctor can decide how long you will remain on medication. You must taper off these medications gradually, a personalized protocol is best.
- To achieve the health benefits of PGx, its insights need to be considered when health decisions are made. Look for pharmacogenetics testing service that include a clear strategy for covering many medication types and updating your results regularly.