There’s a dramatic piece in the Washington Post today about how genetic testing can predict whether a person will process certain medications, or experience side effects. The Mayo Clinic has been using these tests, particularly with children and people with family histories of bad side effects. But this testing hasn’t hit mainstream usage…yet.
These genetic tests identify how you process certain liver enzymes.
“The most important liver enzymes in drug metabolism are the ones in the ‘cytochrome P450′ (CYP) family. They process 25 percent of all drugs, including those that cause the most adverse reactions — antidepressants, anti-psychotics, painkillers, beta blockers (which slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure) and drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Say you take a drug that is mostly processed by the enzyme CYP 2D6. If your liver produces too much of this enzyme, it could over-process the drug and flush it right out of your body, and you’d get no therapeutic effect. If, on the other hand, your liver produces too little of the 2D6 enzyme or none at all, the drug wouldn’t be sufficiently broken down. Instead, it would build up in your bloodstream. You could overdose on what, for most people, would be a normal dose.”
Had these tests been available a few years ago, my mother could have been spared years of pain, illness and liver damage that resulted from trial-and-error drug regimens. Thankfully, we got her into the Mayo Clinic where she received the diagnoses that had eluded everyone else.
Like many, I believe this testing will become as commonplace as blood typing. It can lead to faster, more effective, more appropriate pharmaceutical treatment - which means better quality of life for people, and cheaper cost of care for insurers.