Genetic testing is everywhere right now, and one of the most clinically useful applications is testing to evaluate how your DNA may affect the way medications work for you. This is called pharmacogenomic or PGx testing. Whether you’re just learning about this type of genetic testing or you’ve decided to take a PGx test, involving your doctor is important for four key reasons:
- Your doctor can help you find a clinically valid PGx test. Genetic testing to support medical care requires a clinical test from a reputable lab. Your doctor can potentially help you find one that will meet these criteria. Remember, the test your doctor is comfortable with is going to be the best option for you.
- The test is the beginning - not the end. Your PGx test results don’t do anything on their own; the value of PGx is when your doctor uses this information as a tool in making medication decisions for you.
- Your doctor has your health history. DNA is just one factor that influences how medications will work for you. Your doctor has both the necessary additional information and the expertise to apply it to your medication and dosage decisions.
- Medication decisions should be made with your doctor. Regardless of whether it’s your doctor or an independent physician who orders the test for you, it’s important that any medication changes are made under your doctor’s care. Never stop taking a medication or adjust your dose without first talking with your doctor.
I realize that PGx is a complicated topic and having a productive conversation with your doctor about it may sound intimidating. So we put together 3 key steps to take when talking to your doctor about PGx.
1. Introduce pharmacogenomics to your doctor
PGx isn’t new - it’s been around for years - but traditionally, it hasn’t been a standard part of patient care. Your doctor may or may not be familiar with PGx and could have questions or concerns about using PGx information in your care.
Because PGx isn’t standard yet, doctors may be cautious about how trustworthy it is. Be sure to share that PGx as a science is backed by clinical evidence. Our patient toolkit gives you an entire section of information for providers - including information about the science behind PGx - that you can give to your doctor to help answer her or his questions.
2. Share your “why”
The most compelling discussion point you have is why you are interested in PGx testing. Several factors can create a clinical case for PGx testing, including:
- If you have a history of medications not working as anticipated: Your DNA may play a role in whether specific medications achieve their intended result.
- If you have a history of experiencing medication side effects: Your genes may be one of several potential contributors to medication side effects.
- If you’re currently taking multiple medications: The more medications you are taking, the more opportunity there is for one of them to not work as intended.
- If you’ve been diagnosed with certain conditions: Conditions like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, cancer, or gastroenteritis are all commonly treated with medications that may be impacted by genetics.
While these points are helpful, your “why” doesn’t have to be based on current or previous experience with medications. Because your DNA doesn’t change, the information that comes from your PGx test can be used for years to come. Preemptive testing, or testing before you’re prescribed a medication, may help minimize the risk of future side effects and decrease the likelihood of a future prescription not working as expected.
3. Discuss your results with your doctor
Once your results come in, it’s important to schedule time to speak with your doctor. Look at your current medications and discuss the implications with your doctor. This is also a good opportunity to have a comprehensive medication review looking at current and recent prescriptions, over the counter medications, and even dietary supplements. For doctors new to PGx or who want assistance interpreting your results for use in prescribing decisions, OneOme offers doctors complimentary clinical consults with our expert pharmacists.
As you move forward, continue to revisit your PGx results with your doctors to understand how your genes may affect any new medications. Remember, your own doctor is in the best position to determine medications and dosages, and your PGx results are just one factor for your doctor to consider when prescribing.
And, as in any conversation about your health, an open, honest dialogue is key to making PGx work for you and your doctor.
For more information on how to talk to your doctor, plus information you can give to him or her that explains PGx testing, download our patient toolkit!