Pharmacogenetics Testing

Made by combining two words – pharmacology, the study of the effects and uses of medicines, and genomics, the study of genes and their functions – pharmacogenetics is the study of how genes affect the way a body metabolizes and synthesizes medicines.

Genes are responsible for not only the way we look and our blood type, but also for the way our bodies process and metabolize medicines. Pharmacogenetics tests or drug gene tests allow a physician to determine if a particular medicine would be effective or not in treating a person. Used with variables such as age, medications used, lifestyle and other health parameters, the test can help determine the degree of side effects expected from a particular medicine.

What does pharmacogenetics test determine?

Pharmacogenetics test is conducted on either a cheek swab or a small blood sample. It can help determine the following:

  • The most suitable medication for a patient
  • The right dose for a patient
  • The possibility of adverse side effects of a particular medicine in a patient

For how long are the results valid?

As the genetic makeup of an individual is not likely to change over time, the test results are valid throughout life. However, one may need to undergo a separate test for each medication because the effects of all medications cannot be determined by a single drug gene test.

The need to undertake a pharmacogenetics test is individualistic and can be ascertained by the care provider. As the genetic makeup of family members is similar, the pharmacogenetics test results should be shared among family members to warn the care provider of possibilities of adverse reactions to a particular medicine. If need be, the physician can order individual tests also.

What are the limitations of the test?

  • Multiple pharmacogenetics tests need to be done if more than one medicine is being planned as one test cannot predict an individual’s reaction to all medicines.
  • The testing technique is not valid for all types of medicines, therefore, the care provider might still be in dark if they want to use medicines not covered by the test.

Does insurance cover pharmacogenetics testing?

The cost of the test can vary on the basis of which test the doctor orders. Some insurances do cover the test. One must talk to their insurance provider beforehand if costs are a concern.

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