DNA tests for psychiatric medications come to local supermarket pharmacies

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Monday, December 30, 2019
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One genetic test for mental health medications comes to Acme Markets in Southeastern Pa., though cost and proof-of-performance still detriments

FLOURTOWN, Pa. (WPVI) -- For many people suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues, it can take a lot of trial and error to find a medication that works.

But genetic testing may be able to help, and now that test can be found at some local pharmacies.

Millions of Americans are living with mental health problems, and about 850 die by suicide every week.

So finding a treatment that works is vital.

Pharmacists are on the front line, often seeing people with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder try multiple medications, struggling to find one that works...

"We see that because we're seeing dose changes, we're seeing all the different prescriptions come in," says pharmacist Gabriella Pepe McGinley.

But McGinley says Acme Pharmacies in Pennsylvania now have a tool that can help take some of the guesswork out.

They can facilitate getting a doctor's prescription, then walk patients through this genetic testing kit.

"Swab for about a minute on the inside of one cheek," she says.

A simple cheek swab is then sent to the Genomind lab in King of Prussia, where scientists study how dozens of different genes interact with different medications.

"There's 260 medications that have genetic biomarkers on the labels, we provide the process to help clinicians make more informed decisions before they prescribe," says Genomind president Kip Olmstead.

Scientific research showing if this type of testing actually works is still in the early stages, many call the existing evidence "inconclusive."

In addition to Genomind, Color Genomics and GeneSight are similar tests also on the market.

The FDA issued a warning about genetic tests to predict medication response in 2018, and is investigating or has taken action against several specific companies.

Still, some pharmacists, including McGinley, have seen the benefits.

Genomind says partnering with Acme Pharmacies helps address the growing problem of mental health problems and suicide.

"This is a major step to increase access and awareness to a really actionable tool in mental health," says Olmstead.

As for cost, if you have a commercial insurance plan, the co-pay is typically about $300.

Without a co-pay, the price can be $2,000.

The company says this is best for someone with a mental health diagnosis who has tried several different therapies.

As always, talk to your healthcare provider about what is best for you.