Genetic test means better drug therapy

RICHMOND, Ind. – A new test available at Reid can help doctors prescribe the most effective medication for patients based on their genetic make-up. Called pharmacogenetic testing, it involves swabbing the inside of the patient’s cheek and sending the saliva sample to a specialty laboratory. Physicians receive a detailed report that can help them decide which type of drugs will work best on individual patients and what the most effective dose will be.

“A person’s genetic make-up influences how their body responds to specific types of medication,” says Chuck McGill, director of Laboratory Services at Reid. “Pharmacogenetic testing allows doctors to personalize therapy so that the patient receives the right dose of the right medication at the right time.”

The test is especially useful for patients who need pain management, antidepressant, antipsychotic or blood thinning medication, McGill adds. By helping patients receive the most effective drug therapy possible, it has the potential to help them benefit from therapy sooner and avoid adverse drug reactions.

Pharmacogenetic testing is new but gaining appeal nationwide. Researchers at Vanderbilt University recently analyzed test results from more than 10,000 patients who underwent pharmacogenetic testing. They found that more than 90 percent of those patients had one or more genetic abnormalities that would have affected their response to certain medications.

“Pharmacogenetic testing is a wonderful tool because it helps us avoid the trial and error that is sometimes necessary when prescribing certain medications,” says Akbar Shinwari, M.D., a psychiatrist with Reid Psychiatric Services. “A number of my patients have already undergone this testing, and the results helped me prescribe the most effective medication for them. This has changed their lives for the better.”

Some insurance companies cover the cost of pharmacogenetic testing under certain circumstances. If you are interested in learning more, talk to your primary care physician.

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