Cutting-edge DNA testing now at B.C. pharmacies

Cutting-edge DNA testing now at B.C. pharmacies

WATCH: DNA testing to determine how your body reacts and metabolizes different medications now available at Vancouver Island pharmacies. Tess van Straaten reports.

When you need medication, finding the right prescription and the right dose can take a lot of trial and error because everyone processes medication differently.

But now there’s a new DNA test available at some pharmacies on Vancouver Island that maps a patient’s unique genetic profile to determine how their body will react to certain drugs.

“It tells us what medications may or may not work for you, what medications may perhaps be more toxic or have more side effects and which dose may be right or better for you,” explains Heart Pharmacy pharmacist Cindy Chen.

The test, called myDNA, is based on the cutting edge field of pharmacogenomics, which combines the science of drugs with the study of genes to tailor treatment and potentially reduce the risk of adverse side effects.

“It can tell us whether a person is an ultra-fast metabolizer, which means that they clear medication very quickly from the body, versus somebody who is a very slow metabolizer where the medication can stay in the body and potentially cause more side effects,” Chen said.

The testing is done with a simple cheek swab kit and the sample is sent to a lab for sequencing, with the entire process taking about three to four weeks. But not everyone is convinced it works.

“The hype is way higher than what science would justify,” says University of Victoria drug policy researcher Alan Cassles.

Cassles has written about genetic testing and believes we’re still several years away from tests like this being beneficial.

“My feeling is the science isn’t there yet,” says Cassels. “This is something that is very premature and the information that you get from these kinds of tests is very, very limited ? probably not more than what you would get from a very good examination.”

Pharmacists admit it’s not a silver bullet but say it’s a good start.

“Pharmacogenomics is just one piece of the puzzle, one piece of explaining why a medication might not work as well for you as it does for someone else,” says Chen.

The test, which only covers a range of medications for pain, cardiovascular issues, GI conditions and mental health, costs $149 to test for medication for one condition or $199 for the four-condition test.

Around 80 pharmacies in Canada, including more than 60 pharmacies in B.C., are offering the service. To find one near you, click here.

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Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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