DNA Tests May Help On Finding Out If Medication Is Helping or Hurting People

DNA Tests May Help On Finding Out If Medication Is Helping or Hurting People

USA- Karen Daggett nearly died eight years ago on a Valentine's date with her husband due to her prescription medication.They had built up to a toxic level in her body and she felt dizzy and almost blacked out. 

Karen, who is now 71 years old was taking several prescription drugs for an irregular heartbeat, but neither she or her doctors realized that the pills were not helping her but actually causing her harm. She is now on a safer heart medication after undergoing genetic testing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Her family members went through the same testing and foound out that they had the same genetic variant that caused the heart medications not to work.

This type of gene test that they took is part of an increasing field of individulized medicine called pharmacogenomics and it promises to provide safer and more effective drug therapy. These types of tests can be used for heart disease, cancer, and depression. They help doctors tailer therapy to an individual's DNA sequence.

Dr. Richard Weinshilboum, co-medical director of the pharmacogenomics program at Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine says that they are trying to determine ahead of time who the drug is not going to work in and who might have a severe adverse response or a bad reaction to the drug and try to avoid that.

Pharmacogenomic testing uses a small salvia or blood sample to see what is the most effective medication, dosage, and possible side effects. Daggett took a take-home test called the OneOme RightMed Test and it spots genetic differences which can play a role in how quickly or how slowly a drug is metabolized in the body. 

Genetic tests have been used for everything from prenatal testing to determining paternity and ancestry by millions of people, but pharmacogenomic testing is new and it is unclear how many people have used it, experts say. 

The Mayo Clinic which is one of the leaders in this type of testing is collaborating with the Baylor College of Medicine to sequence the DNA of 10,000 participants. They want to determine if it improves long-term health and can lower health care costs.

Mark Dunnenberger, director of Pharmacogenomics at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Chicago said that they can use this data to make better decisions about which drugs to give patients. This technology will help them in their decision making. 

Dr. Robert C. Green, professor of medicine and director of the Genomes2People Research Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital says that they are limitations to the genetic tests. Doctors can misinterpret findings and avoid prescribing potentially helpful drugs. People can also over-interpret minor results. 

He also said that there is a great deal of hope that these markers will help but it is yet to be know the extent of it. The analytical validty is good but whether it translates to clinical validty is an enitrely separate issue.

Pharmacogenomic testing in the lab or clinic is sometimes covered by insurance but often it is not and it can cost up to $3,000 out-of-pocket. The new at home test can be done for just $250.00.



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