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What Can Your Genes Tell You About Medication Tolerability or Response?

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If you’ve been prescribed a medication such as an antidepressant, you likely take it as directed by your provider and pharmacist. However, you may have a different experience than a friend or family member taking the same medication. The medication may not work as effectively for you, or your symptoms may persist or worsen while your friend’s symptoms improve, leaving you frustrated and unsure of what to do next.

That’s why understanding how prescription drugs interact with your body is important. Read on to learn more about the connection between your DNA and medication response and tolerability.

What is Pharmacodynamics?

Your body may tolerate and respond differently to different medications. This may be due to a multitude of factors, one of which is pharmacodynamics.

Pharmacodynamics is best defined as what a drug does to the body (pharma=drug, dynamic=how it works). This area of science looks at the biochemical, physiologic, and molecular effects a medication can have on the body. Pharmacodynamic genes (or PD genes) are genes that code for receptors or other proteins that are the targets of medications. Genetic variations in PD genes can affect the tolerability and/or likelihood of response to medications. Here’s how it works.

The Typical Journey of a Drug

Once you take a medication, the drug may achieve a therapeutic effect by attaching to a cell receptor, which is a protein on the outside of a cell that can accept signals from medications. Through these actions, medications can alter biological responses, the way that cells behave, and how messages move in the brain.

How Genetic Mutations Can Change the Game

Genetic variations in pharmacodynamic (PD) genes sometimes change how the receptors or proteins work. When this happens, the medication may be less likely to be effective or may cause unwanted side effects.

For example, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. SSRIs do that by blocking the activity of the serotonin transporter, which allows serotonin to remain in the brain and stimulate nerve cells for a longer period. However, if an individual has a certain genetic variation in the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4), this may lead to fewer transporters and an altered response to SSRIs. Individuals with this variation may be less likely to have an improvement in depressive symptoms and more likely to experience side effects with these medications.

You may have also heard of the PD genes MTHFR and BDNF. Depending on variations in these genes, your body may respond differently to common medications used in the treatment of depression. This information can help your provider make decisions about your medications. (MTHFR and mental health are related in other ways too.)

Why Genetic Testing for Medication Is Important

There is no universal mental health treatment. Every individual has their own specific set of symptoms. Certain genetic mutations may affect how you respond to a drug and how well a drug is tolerated by the body.

To address this, pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing can help your healthcare provider understand how your body may react to a medication, and if you may be more or less likely to respond or have side effects with certain medications. This allows your healthcare provider to make more informed decisions about appropriate medication(s) and dosages for you.

Since responses to medication can vary from person to person, having this genetic information ahead of time is designed to reduce the guesswork in finding effective treatment options. Your clinician will base your prescription on you specifically, not on what is most common, or what has worked for others.

While PGx testing can be a vital factor in establishing a treatment plan for many diseases, it may be especially important for those suffering from a mental health condition.

PGx Testing with Genomind

Pharmacogenetic testing with Genomind looks at 24 genes related to mental health treatment. It provides guidance across 10+ mental health conditions and 130+ medications to help clinicians determine:

  •  Which medications may be more or less likely to be effective
  •  Which medications may have side effects
  •  How you metabolize medications for personalized dosing guidance

The Genomind PGx test can be done at a clinician’s office—or from the comfort of your home. It requires a prescription, and Genomind can help connect you with a verified Genomind provider near you. Get started today.

Take Control of Your Mental Health With PGx Testing

PGx testing, along with your health history, family history, lifestyle habits and experiences, are all pieces of the puzzle when it comes to meeting your personal mental health treatment goals. With that information in hand, learning which mental health medications may be appropriate for you can become much clearer.

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