The basic purpose of pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing is to determine how a patient will likely respond to a particular medication. Knowing this information ahead of time can allow physicians to know whether or not to prescribe a certain medication to determine what dosage is appropriate. PGx testing (also referred to as drug-gene testing) is an improvement over population-based studies that cannot account for individual variances that may affect reactions.
How it Works
Pharmacogenomic testing works by examining genes of a patient to look for variants or changes to determine if a certain medication may be effective and whether or not side effects could be experienced. The results are based on a patient’s genetic profile. Testing can be done on several different types of drugs and medications, including:
- Local anesthetics such as lidocaine and ropivacaine
- Cholinergic agonists used by dentists
- ACE inhibitors and beta blockers
- Anti-fungal drugs and topical antibiotics
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids
- Some smoking cessation and weight management medications
How it’s Done
PGx testing is done with either a blood or saliva sample. While genetic makeup does not change over time, additional drug-gene tests may be required when a patient is prescribed a different medication. This is because each medication is associated with a different PGx test. For example, if a doctor takes a patient off of one medication for low back pain and prescribes an entirely different one to treat the same condition, another PGx test would be needed for the new medication to determine how it may affect the same patient.
If the results suggest a patient will not likely respond well to a specific medication, the same results may apply to other family members who may take the same medication. Because of the convenient access to our reports, medical professionals can keep track of results for patients for various medications for their own records.
Results can also determine if it’s safe to prescribe certain medications based on how a patient’s metabolism works. Some individuals eliminate drugs from their system slowly (poor metabolizers) while others do so quickly (ultrarapid metabolizers). If testing shows that a patient metabolizes drugs fast, they will likely need to avoid certain opioids to prevent potentially serious reactions.
While there are many drugs that can be tested with his method, pharmacogenomic tests are not available for all medications. Drug-gene testing is also not currently available for aspirin and most common over-the-counter pain medications patients may be taking.
Studies on pharmacogenetic testing suggest it may improve the prescribing process. It may also help physicians prescribe medications that will produce the desired results while also reducing the potential for adverse effects and reactions. The information provided from drug-gene testing may also improve medication adherence, which can be a problem if a patient makes self-adjustments to doses if they’re not getting the expected relief. Additional factors healthcare professionals typically consider when determining if a medication may benefit a patient include:
- Age and overall health
- Additional medications being taken
- A patient’s general lifestyle, including diet and exercise habits
Pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing is just one of several resources we offer physicians and other medical professionals looking to make well-informed treatment recommendations. Results presented in comprehensive reports make it easier to track patient progress and better control dosages and medication usage to minimize the risks commonly associated with some prescription drugs.