Genetic Testing for Medication Side Effects

I used the Medication and Drug Response DNA app to analyze my 23andMe data. I learned a lot of useful information! Follow along as I explore my results.

Medication side effects are usually a NO DEAL for me. It’s bad enough dealing with the symptoms of a medical condition and then tack on the adverse effects of a drug - no thank you. Over the years, I’ve been on a few different medications for migraines and restless legs. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Actually, it’s taken years to find the right medications for all of my health conditions.

The Frustrations of Medication Roulette

It really is like a game when it comes to finding the right medication. You never know what you’re going to get when you start taking a medication (yes, just like a box of chocolate). For some medications, you feel nothing from it, and you also feel nothing when it comes to relief. The doctor may increase the dose and it starts to work, but then you start getting headaches or you just feel out of it.

For example, my doctor wanted to put me on a migraine preventative because I was taking Imitrex and Motrin 800 like candy throughout the month. She asked me about a few different ones, and every single one I’ve tried in the past. One made me feel like a zombie, which wasn’t a fun time. Another one turned my taste buds off - I ordered a Coke from a restaurant and had them bring me two different ones before I realized that it was my inability to taste that was the problem. My doctor finally asked if I ever tried a medication that lowers blood pressure as a preventative for migraines - I hadn’t, so we started with the low dose. 

Side Note: Learn about the effects of medicine on the body to find out why I had that Coke side effect. 

Like magic, my headache frequency slowed down with some breakthroughs. When I told her, she said, “Well, we’re not at the treating dose yet, so let’s increase it.” Up in dose I went and guess what? I started getting headaches every single day. I went from 40 mg to 60 mg and that’s all it took to give me headaches. 

The doctor couldn’t understand why I would have that side effect, but everyone’s body is different, and that’s my uniqueness coming through. She backed the medication down and except for maybe two headaches a month, I’m good.

The solution to my headaches didn’t happen in one, two, or even three visits to the doctor. And my remedy of the Imitrex with Motrin 800 was something I discovered on my own one day when I was desperate for relief (just give me all the meds and make it go away - it worked!). The only problem is you shouldn’t take Imitrex and Motrin 800 most days of the month.

Now, what if there was a way to speed up the process of finding the right medication with the right dose for the right condition? 

Discovering Genetic Testing for Medication Management

I had absolutely no idea that genetic testing for medication existed. When I met Dr. Brandon Colby and he asked me to look up pharmacogenetics or pharmacogenomics, I was blown away when I learned genetic testing for medication was possible. With a VERY simple DNA test and the analysis performed online with Sequencing.com, people may know medications work best for them for many different health problems, such as high cholesterol, asthma, and even mental health. 

During my research, I learned a genetic test identifies the best antidepressants for people with depressive disorder. This is amazing because antidepressant medications and other psychiatric medications often cause adverse events that make people stop taking them, which then can lead to the worsening of symptoms. Some of the adverse reactions can be life-threatening, leading to suicide. With the Medication and Drug Response analysis, psychiatrists and other prescribing doctors know where to start with prescriptions, including antipsychotics. This will help everyone find the right medication at the right dose. 

What’s such a shame is that many people don’t know they can get a pharmacogenomics test easily online. All that is needed is a DNA sample by taking a swab of the cheek. The DNA sample is then sent to the lab for reading and the test results can be analyzed for medication and drug response information. 

What Genetic Testing Tells Us About Medications

what affects how quickly side effects happen

The Medication and Drug Response analysis identifies how well the body metabolizes specific medications based on genetic makeup. By looking at specific genes such as CYP2C9, CYP2C19, and CYP2D6, the analysis is able to return levels of drug metabolism such as lower, typical, higher, and better. This tells healthcare providers which type of drug treatment will work the best and even gives them an idea about dosing. 

The skeptics out there will try to say the results aren’t accurate or true. While I can see why people may believe that, I would challenge those of you who do to think about the science behind pharmacogenomics. Researchers have studied the body for years and how drug metabolize in the body - how enzymes in the liver break down drugs. When they started to see differences in people’s bodies, they wondered why and geneticists studied genetic variants.

Through study after study, they were able to see that people with similar gene variations processed medications similarly. They took this information and whenever they find people with similar genetic makeup, they identify their response to medications and drugs. 

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was not on board with the findings at first, they have opened up to it over the last couple of years and have partnered with organizations to support them in genetic testing for medications. You can read about their support on their website here: FDA Announces Collaborative Review of Scientific Evidence to Support Associations Between Genetic Information and Specific Medications

My Pharmacogenetic Test Results

To give you an inside look into pharmacogenetic testing, I used my raw DNA data from 23andMe and uploaded it to Sequencing.com. You can read about how I downloaded DNA data from 23andMe and uploaded the DNA data to Sequencing.com here

Once my DNA data was available in my Sequencing.com account, I was able to use the personalized medication and drug response app to look at the genetic variations in my DNA.

The following are the results of my pharmacogenomic test:

medication and drug response

The initial reaction I had was, “What am I looking at?” It was a bit overwhelming to see all of the results, but once I understood what I was looking at - it all made sense. 

The report is actually very easy to read once you know what you’re looking at, so let me go through what this is saying in hopes it will help you when you have your own. 

The first trait is Abacavir Hypersensitivity, and the results are Absent, which means I do not have a hypersensitivity to Abacavir, which is a medication used to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. 

The next one is Alcohol Dependence - I have a Lower chance of becoming dependent on alcohol, which I believe because I drank throughout college and afterward but never felt the need to drink outside of social environments.

For aromatase inhibitor side effects, the result was also Lower, so if I ever need breast cancer treatment and need aromatase inhibitors I won’t have to worry too much about the side effects that some people experience. 

For cannabis dependence, I did not have any result for that and I’ll let you know why below. 

The report says I have a typical response to epilepsy treatment - carbamazepine reaction. 

Now, the next one is my response to citalopram (Celexa) - an antidepressant. This report says I have a Higher response to the medication. What’s interesting is that I have actually taken Celexa in college when dealing with a bout of depression and anxiety, and I did respond to it well. 

Jumping down to salbutamol response, this is a medication for opening the lungs and I have a Poorer response to it, meaning it will likely not work. 

Looking down to the Very Elevated response Warfarin Sensitivity. This is an anticoagulant medication and since I have a very elevated result, I would only be able to tolerate a very low dose. 

What’s the Deal with No Results?

Since some of my results have no response, I asked Dr. Brandon Colby, an American physician, writer on genomics, and founder of Sequencing.com. 

If there is a blank for a result, this means that there was not enough data available in your DNA data file to analyze that specific trait. This can occur because of the types of DNA testing provided by 23andMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, etc that test less than 1% of your genome. While the analysis will analyze the data that is available and will provide you with as much information as possible, if the DNA test didn’t obtain some of the needed data to properly analyze a specific trait then that trait won’t be analyzed and instead there will be no result.

The solution for this is to get your whole genome sequenced! Sequencing your entire genome obtains data on 100% of your genome. All genes and all chromosomes are sequenced end-to-end. When whole-genome sequencing data is used with this report, every trait will have a result since whole-genome sequencing provides enough data for all DNA analysis apps and report to perform a full, comprehensive analysis of all traits and diseases.

This wasn’t much of a surprise to me because I did wonder how much information could really be given with the 23andMe test. I only did it to confirm my ethnicity. I NEVER thought it was thorough enough to tell me all of the information I’m able to find out with Sequencing.com’s apps. Even so, the DNA that I uploaded to my Sequencing.com account has already given me a lot of information about weight management, and now all of this about medication. 

I would love to know about the other medications, so I’ll likely get the more advanced testing - Ultimate Genome Sequencing. With that, I’ll be able to know more about my predisposition to cannabis dependence, chemotherapy reaction, heroin addiction risk, NSAID response, and liver cancer treatment response. 

About the Ultimate Genome Sequencing Service

ultimate genome sequencing

The Ultimate Genome Sequencing service includes clinical-grade whole-genome sequencing for only $399. If you purchase the Ultimate Genome Sequencing service and email [email protected] with the order number and special code SpecialFreeRx then the Medication and Drug Response Report will be free along with a suite of many other health reports. 

Is It Worth It?

I would say that it’s worth it if you’re someone who is accepting of drug therapy to treat medical problems. For me, I have no problem using medications to resolve problems I have that stand in the way of living my best life. This information will be highly valuable to me throughout my life, especially as I get older. 

Genetic makeup NEVER changes. The results from the Medication and Drug Response report can be used forever. Clinicians will appreciate the genetic information because it will help them and save them time and effort. You will appreciate the pharmacogenomic testing because it’s easy and you won’t deal with switching between so many medications and doses as you figure out what works best for you. 

While $399 may seem like a lot to spend, consider how much money is wasted on medications that end up getting thrown into the trash. All of those prescription costs plus co-pays when you have to go back to the doctor for medication changes. Those all add up, and the report you receive from the MEdication and Drug Response report will likely save you money in the long run because there will be fewer medication changes. This leads to fewer medications to pay for AND fewer doctor co-pays. 

There’s also the cost of long term effects, such as those with opioids. Opioid addiction is a serious problem in the United States. Millions of people are addicted to them and it’s costing them a lot of money - not to mention those individuals who have had to seek addiction recovery treatment. The Medication and Drug Response report identifies whether someone is at risk for opioid addiction, which alerts the doctor to not use that type of medication.

How to Get Started

Raw data from a DNA test can be uploaded to Sequencing.com. The data may be from a wide range of DNA tests including our own Ultimate DNA Test or Ultimate Genome Sequencing as well as from most genetic testing companies such as 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and Dante Labs.

After the raw DNA data is uploaded to your account, you can use the Medication & Drug Response DNA app. This app will analyze your DNA and generate a personalized report. 

Simply click here to purchase the report once the raw DNA data has been uploaded to your secure and confidential account. Our Privacy First commitment ensures your data remains private. We never sell or share your data, including your DNA data, with anyone.

Those who have already had a DNA test by 23andMe, AncestryDNA, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and Dante Labs can upload their raw DNA data easily to Sequencing.com’s secure and confidential account.

Free DNA Data Upload  

For those who have not yet taken a DNA test and don’t have raw DNA to upload, you can purchase a DNA test kit online. Once the DNA test has completed, your DNA data will be stored in your confidential Sequencing.com account and ready to use with the Medication & Drug Response DNA analysis app or another report from the wide assortment available from Sequencing.com. 

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When you get your report, come back here and leave a comment about it. Let’s talk about it, especially if you have questions. It’s fun to talk about the information you gain from your DNA!

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