Get The Right Treatment Through Genetic Testing
Research and Innovations New genetic testing takes the guesswork out of medical treatment.
Attempting to get the right kind of medicine to treat a health condition, whether it’s high blood pressure or depression, is a venture fraught with hazards. What works for one patient may not work for another, precipitating an often-frustrating trial-and-error process to find an effective drug.
These trials are not only wasteful but also potentially dangerous due to potential adverse drug reactions, which is the fourth leading cause of death in North America. Surely there is a better option for physicians and patients.
Fortunately, there is. One of the hottest areas in the health industry today is the concept of personalized medicine. One application is genetic testing, which can help patients determine which drugs suit their specific genetic makeup. Genetic testing will allow doctors to have much more definitive data about their patients — an invaluable tool for improved diagnosis and treatment of disease. The concept is no longer the fodder of science fiction novels. This science is available right now. It has moved from concept and innovation to being put into practice.
Not only can personalized medicine and genetic testing significantly help treat many diseases with pinpoint accuracy, they have the ability to flip the way medicine is currently practised. Instead of focusing on treating illness, medicine should switch to a preventative tact where maintaining wellness is the goal. The impact of this would be enormous. Personalized medicine has great potential for significantly reducing the cost of healthcare in Canada. Keeping people well saves money.
“It’s truly a revolutionary time,” says Dr. Pieter Cullis, author of The Personalized Medicine Revolution: How Diagnosing and Treating Disease Are About to Change Forever, chair of the Personalized Medicine Initiative and director of the Life Sciences Institute at the University of British Colombia.
Dr. Cullis points out that personalized medicine is the result of new technologies that allow us to gather definitive data about ourselves for the first time in human history. The leap forward has been significant over the past 15 years. “The cost of sequencing a human genome was $3 billion in 2000 and it took ten years. Now, it costs $1,000 and takes a day or two.”
In pragmatic terms, treatments can be targeted to individuals instead of applying a one-size-fits-all philosophy for drug effectiveness. Take depression, for instance. Most patients have to try two or three SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) medications in order to find the appropriate one. In the meantime, they may have to endure unpleasant side effects, from insomnia to weight gain. Genetic testing allows physicians to make better-informed decisions when prescribing drugs.
Efforts are underway to make testing more accessible to the public. Dr. Martin Dawes, Head of the Department of Family Practice at UBC, has been involved in a Genome BC-sponsored study that is looking at things like individuals’ ability to metabolize drugs by asking patients to submit saliva samples for analysis. In conjunction with a software program, physicians can use the data to prescribe drugs that suit an individual’s genetic profile. “It’s something that can save lives,” says Dawes. “About ten percent of emergency room visits are due to reactions to prescription drugs.”
Companies like Genxys are pushing for widespread availability, hoping the test (currently $400) will be available across the country by spring 2016. Physicians’ having the ability to tailor treatments based on patients’ one-of-a-kind genetic profiles is truly a game-changer for modern medicine. It’s good medicine for all.