Finding Medicine To Fit Your Genes

Ever wonder why one drug works great for your friend but never seems to help you? Or, maybe one medicine works wonders for you but causes your spouse to become very ill. There are several things that could be impacting the way your body processes medicine including:

But, the real key may lie within your genes. Pharmacogenomics is the practice of using a person’s genetic profile to help prescribe medications that are most likely to be helpful. It helps you find the right drug taken at the right dose and at the right time. This drug-gene testing can help you understand whether you have changes (variants) within your genes that could impact the way your body processes medicines. If your body processes it quickly, your medicine might not seem to work at all; if it processes drugs slowly, you might have side effects. The impact of genes on the way your body reacts to medicine may be greater than most people realize. The Mayo Clinic RIGHT Study found that 99 percent of all patients studied had a change in their genes that impacts the way common medications are processed.[i]

The case of Karen Daggett

What Karen Daggett didn’t know almost killed her. The medicine she relied on to control an irregular heartbeat wasn’t working and hadn’t for years. Then, all of a sudden, it came to a head.

“My husband and I were out for a Valentine’s Day dinner with a number of other couples, and I began to feel so ill that we had to leave and rush to an emergency room,” says Daggett. “The doctor told my husband that it was good he brought me in when he did, because my body was shutting down. He said if we had waited even 12 hours longer, my husband would have taken me home in a box.”

Testing at Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine showed some medications were incompatible with Daggett’s genetic makeup. As a result, her body wasn’t properly processing some drugs. She even had a hard time with some commonly used over-the-counter medications. Silently, these drugs were building up in her system, causing harmful side effects that could have taken her life.

What she learned prompted many in her extended family to get tested and to adjust their own medicines.

“This type of individualized medicine has saved so many lives in my family,” continues Daggett. “I’m alive today because of it, and I feel great.”

While not everyone will have as dramatic a response to drugs as Daggett, all patients could benefit from having pharmacogenomic testing. Mayo Clinic has identified 19 ways genes react negatively to certain drugs. With the test results, your health care provider can identify potential drug-gene interactions that might cause a problem for you. This can guide your health care provider to choose a safer drug for you.

Should you get pharmacogenomic testing?

If you are having side effects related to your current medications - ask about genetic testing. With a simple cheek swab, blood test or saliva test, pharmacogenomic testing can look at how your body will react to over 300 drugs. As the price continues to come down, this potentially lifesaving test is becoming more accessible to patients. For more information, visit The Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine PGx Profile page.

This Mayo Clinic Women’s Health article is written by Eric T. Matey, Pharm.D., R.Ph.

[i] From “Preemptive Pharmacogenomic Testing for Precision Medicine: A Comprehensive Analysis of Five Actionable Pharmacogenomic Genes Using Next-Generation DNA Sequencing and a Customized CYP2D6 Genotype Cascade.” The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics, Vol. 18, No. 3, May 2016, pages 439-445.

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