Pharmacogenomic : A Personal Journey









One Man’s Personal Experience With Genetic Medicine

I did not know how smart my sister-in-law really was and how much she knew about pharmacogenetics! What is pharamacogenomics you ask? Well, I shall tell you my story of depression and relief from symptoms of depression. Last week, I was talking to my sister-in-law, who is a pharmaceutical representative and was telling her how the antidepressants I was taking just weren’t working. After years of feeling blue and sad, I had hoped that medication would be the solution to my problem and I finally made an appointment to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist warned me that it might take 2 to 4 weeks for the medication to have an effect and kick in. He also said that the medication he is prescribing is only is effective with about 60% of all people, and that I should come back in a month to see how things are going. He explained that not all medications work with everyone and that “we” would have to use trial and error, until “we” found the right cocktail of medications that would help me. I went back every two weeks for three months and felt despair because the side effects were worse than the disease and it seemed nothing was working. I told my sister-in-law how frustrated I was that after waiting so long, it seemed like the psychiatrist just guessing. I had thought that medicine was a science! Then, my sister-in-law explained to me that everyone’s chemistry is different. She told me that medications are not metabolized the same way by everybody. In the same way that genes, our DNA determines whether you might get a certain type of cancer, individual differences in DNA also determine how each person’s body metabolizes medications.

Pharmacogenomic medicine is changing and saving lives

In the past, psychiatrists would have to use trial and error to determine which psychotropic medication would work by trying one medication after another until one began to work. She explained that she just got a new job with a company that does pharmacogenomic testing. Of course, I asked her what that was, and how she knew so much about it. She reminded me that her undergraduate degree was in organic chemistry and that is how she got her job as a pharmaceutical rep. She said that after she learned about pharamcogenomic testing, she decided to find a company in that field to find a job doing marketing for a company on the cutting edge of medical science. Now, she sells testing for medical doctors so they can test people to see which medications work best. She explained that her company does testing to determine which psychiatric medications are most effective for an individual. She said that pharmacogenetic testing is the beginning of a new era of personalized medicine. This all sounded so scary to me, but she explained that your doctor just does a simple swipe of the inside of your cheek. That is enough to gather up enough skin cells with your genetic material for the lab she works for to determine which medications will work best for you. She said, it takes out the guess work of prescribing by trial and error. I asked her why, pharmacogenomic testing is so great, how come my psychiatrist, how come more psychiatrists are using it. She said, it is new and it is her job to tell people about its benefits. I went back to my psychiatrist and found out that he has begun using genetic testing. He took a simple swab of cells from the inside of my mouth, sent it off, and then in two weeks, we received a report back indicating which medication would work best for me. He and I and my sister-in-law could not be happier.