Pharmacogenetics: Genetic Testing for Personalized Medical Treatment
Potential Areas for Pharmacogenetics
Pharmacogenetics is currently in use for children with leukemia for better dosage control. Adults taking Plavix to prevent blood clots after heart attacks are beneficiaries of these genetic test results since discovering that roughly 30 percent of adults receiving this medication cannot fully convert it in their bodies rendering it a less effective option for the prevention of strokes and heart attacks in the future.
Treatment for ADHD in children is often hit or miss. What works for one child will not bring the same results for another. Side effects such as drowsiness, weakness in the legs, mood swings, stomach pain, loss of appetite, and delayed growth could be avoided if pharmacogenetics can help predict a better choice of medication at the start of treatment.
One mother, who asked not to be named for her son’s privacy, reported a positive experience with genetic testing. Her son, who has both autism and major depression disorder with anxiety, had experienced terrible side effects when taking Paxil. After swabbing each side of the mouth, the results came in within a week.
Her son’s doctor explained that there would be three categories regarding potential medications:
- First category – a group of medications that match the gene type or chemistry
- Second category – drugs that could be effective without too many bad side effects
- Third category – medications that should not be used because of gene interaction (as it turned out, Paxil fell into this category for her son)
Two weeks into the new medication (Wellbutrin – a category one drug for her son) and there have been no bad side effects, he is sleeping well, and there have been no changes in appetite.
Some of these medications can be addictive, as well. Because drug dosages are not always researched for children in medical studies, doctors are at the mercy of limited knowledge during diagnostic stages. This is where genetic testing can eliminate the trial and error and provide a quick determination of what medication will work the best for the child.
One area where personalized medicine based on genetic testing is helpful is depression. Patients who are either considering the use of antidepressants or have not seen the desired results from previous treatment for this condition now have the opportunity to discover – through a simple cheek swab – what medication will work the best and which ones should be avoided based on the potential for adverse reactions or lack of benefits.
Other current uses for pharmacogenetics are HIV, breast cancer, and colon cancer, with bloodthinning, mental health, autism, and asthma studies also underway. In regards to autism, current research has shown promising results and significant progress towards the pharmacogenomics of autism, with additional validation needed by further studies. An upcoming study in conjunction with Sanofi will evaluate the use of Lixisenatide (a medication that may improve glucose control in adults with type 2 diabetes) in acute coronary syndrome. Another hope is that pharmacogenetics will help improve future laboratory drug research and development.
At this time, more than 150 medications have pharmacogenetics information on their labels from the FDA. This provides genetic-specific dosing and other factors that can help doctors find the best medication for each person.
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