The role genes play in how you metabolize prescription medications

Whether you have a chronic pain condition or a recurring illness, medication can help relieve symptoms and put you at ease. Unfortunately, out of the 170 million Americans taking prescribed drugs, over 80 million experience adverse reactions. These range in severity from fatigue and muscle aches to heart palpitations and internal bleeding.

Some drug side effects are caused by behavior, such as mixing two drugs together or taking medication at the wrong time intervals. However, in several cases, adverse effects are the result of genetics. Many important parts of our lives are determined by genetics — while we can’t change that fact, we can change the decisions we make by gaining essential knowledge regarding our bodies. At ClarityX, we offer genetic testing to help you and your doctor learn more about your body and discover the best treatment for you. Here’s a closer look at the connection between genes and metabolism and how our services can help.

How Do Genes Affect Metabolism?

Over time, researchers have been able to pinpoint genetic variations that impact how one may respond to certain drugs. Some real-life examples include:

  • Slow-acting N-acetyltransferase: About 50% of Americans are slow acetylators, which means that their N-acetyltransferase (a liver enzyme) metabolizes drugs slowly. This can make it dangerous to take drugs such as isoniazid, which treats tuberculosis.
  • Low pseudocholinesterase levels: This blood enzyme is used to inactivate muscle-relaxing drugs given during medical procedures, such as succinylcholine. People who have low levels of pseudocholinesterase may not be able to inactivate the drug in time, which can lead to difficulty breathing.
  • Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency: G6PD is an important enzyme that protects red blood cells from harmful chemicals. Certain drugs, such as chloroquine (which treats malaria) may destroy red blood cells in people with a G6PD deficiency.

In the past, patients had no way of knowing if a medication would be harmful until they took it. Fortunately, pharmacogenetic testing is changing that.

What Is Pharmacogenetic Testing?

The metabolism of medications is a precise science. If your enzymes work too fast, the drug will be rendered useless — if they work too slowly, the drug will remain in your system and cause negative symptoms. The good news is, many of the genetic variations that affect drug metabolism can be identified early.

Pharmacogenetic testing, or drug gene testing, examines the genetic differences that affect how people metabolize drugs. It can be done with a simple DNA sample, which is retrieved through one of the following options:

  • Saliva
  • Cheek cells

The ultimate goal of pharmacogenetics is to personalize treatments by determining which drugs will help a patient and which drugs may hurt them. Through this testing, people can optimize pain relief and determine the best possible option for their health. Not only can pharmacogenetics be applied to conditions with established treatments, but it can also be utilized to create individualized therapies for cancer patients.

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Are There Restrictions to Pharmacogenetic Testing?

While pharmacogenetic testing has helped make massive changes in the way doctors prescribe medications, it’s important to acknowledge its limitations. Drug gene testing cannot identify all genetic variations — rather, it focuses on genes that encode cytochrome P450 (CYP450) enzymes, which affects the metabolism of about 70 to 80% of drugs in clinical use. Moreover, factors such as age, medical history and lifestyle choices should always be considered when determining treatment.

Get Your Pharmacogenetic Test Today!

Selecting the right medication is no easy feat. A certain medication might work well in 90% of people, but cause severe side effects in the remaining 10% — and you may just be one of those 10%. The last thing anybody wants is to take a drug to help battle a medical condition, only for the medication to be more painful than the actual condition. That’s where pharmacogenomics comes in.

At ClarityX, we offer gene testing to help you make well-informed, safe choices regarding your treatment. Whether you’re looking to learn more about your heart or mental health wellness or are interested in a comprehensive gene panel, we’ve got you covered. Learn more by getting a pharmacogenetic test today.

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