AUSTIN -- It's happened to all of us or someone we know: An adverse reaction to medication taken exactly as it's prescribed by the doctor.The FDA reports last year, Medicare and insurance companies spent $136 billion on complications from adverse drug reactions. Often our own bodies are to blame. Since everyone's genetic makeup is different, our reactions to medications are also different. Now, genome testing is arming doctors with important, and possibly lifesaving, information when it comes to the medicines they prescribe.
A test that starts with a cheek swab on both sides of the mouth can yield important information for doctors on how efficiently that medicine will react with that patient. "It is based on their DNA," said Steve Berglund, the director of patient services for COEUS Genomics.
The DNA decides how the patient's genomes are working, and whether they're a rapid or a poor metabolizer of certain medication. The testing is done at Molecular Testing Labs in Washington State.
“It’s your DNA. That does not change. How you process medication now is how you will process medication 20 years from now. So one test can determine a lot. ”Steve Berglund "If we have the ability to see how they're going to react, or at least be able to predict how they're going to react, why would you not want to use that?" said Berglund. "Why continue to go blind when you have something that might be able to at least narrow the field for you on what you want to prescribe someone?" "It's a tool," said Dr. J. Brad Lichtenhan, a family practice physician at VIK Medical. Lichtenhan said other genetic traits besides metabolism, come into play with medicine dosage, but he plans on using the test a lot because of the guidance it can offer. "A person comes in and says, 'Doctor, my pain medicine just isn't working,'" said Lichtenhan. "We look at it and say, 'Well, that's an appropriate dose.' Now we have this test where we look at it and say, 'Well, look here.' Sure enough, that person cannot and is not metabolizing this drug well."
"The goal is that we can develop this pill for you," said Berglund. "Not people like you or your age, but we can develop this super pill that can be processed exactly how your body needs it be, so it can be processed and be totally effective for you."
KVUE spoke to several people who said they're amazed genetic testing can be applied to the medicines they take and help reduce the number of adverse reactions. "It seems like it's a great advance, because the consumer is able to use their genetic makeup to actually prevent health problems," said Anita Salinas, an Austin resident. "I think it's amazing, because it would help people," said Marie McKenzie, an Austin resident. "Some reactions to medication can be pretty toxic, you know, and dangerous. So, if they can prevent that, I think it's just a big plus."The genome testing is expensive, but last year, Medicare and most insurance companies started picking up the cost for patients who need long-term medications. Berglund said Molecular Testing Labs indicates 10 percent of all emergency room visits by Medicare-aged patients are due to adverse reactions to properly prescribed and ingested medications.
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