By Mai Martinez

Ever take a prescription and it just doesn’t work for you?

Well, new tests can help doctors determine the drugs that <will> work for you based on your genes.

Mai Martinez explores this new field of personalized medicine.

“I was given narcotics which really did not give me any relief from the pain,” says NorthShore University HealthSyste patient Tony Cirrincione.

He  suffered kidney stones years ago – and always wondered why strong painkillers never worked.

He got answers when he took a pharmacogenomics test at NorthShore.

I took it too.

“Pharmacogenomics is a science of looking at your DNA to understand how you’re gonna respond to medications,” says Mark Dunnenberger, Pharm.D, Director of the Pharmacogenomics Program at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Depending on how your body processes certain drugs, they may not work for you or  may cause side effects.

How does this information help the patient?

“We can either avoid those medications //or we can dose adjust up or down,” says Dr. Dunnenberger.

“Your report’s gonna look like this. You’re gonna get medications that are potentially high risk for you,” explains Dr. Dunnenberger.

My results found one: Clopidogrel more commonly known as Plavix.

It’s a blood thinner I might be given if I ever had a heart attack or stroke.

Peter O’Donnell, M.D. at the University of Chicago tests blood samples taken from more than 1200 study participants to learn more about the DNA – drug connection.

“We found that the information covers over 90 percent of the common U.S. diseases,” says Dr. O’Donnell.

Conditions like depression, asthma, arthritis, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, even acid reflux and heartburn, which 29-year-old Shane Tierney has.

“It was very painful,” sayd Tierney, who participates in the UChicago study.

He learned that his genes explain why 20 milligram doses of over-the-counter medications weren’t working.

And, discovered a stronger, prescription drug would.

“We found out that Nexium is the perfect medicine. I’m supposed to take 40 milligrams twice a day,” he says.

Some doctors now use this information in their everyday practice.

“We saw that it actually changed what they would prescribe,” says Dr. O’Donnell.

MEDICATIONS LIKE ATORVASTATIN FOR CHOLESTEROL, FLUTICASONE PROPIONATE FOR ASTHMA AND ALLERGIES AND EVEN THE COMMON PAINKILLER ASPIRIN WERE OFTEN CHANGED FOR PATIENTS.

“We know … how they might respond to medications for about 20% of the medications available,” sayd Dr. Dunnenberger.

CIRRINCIONE ALREADY PUT HIS GENETIC RESULTS TO GOOD USE AFTER A RECENT ARM SURGERY.

“They prescribed some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. And that worked.

Doctors tell us they hope these kinds of tests will become as common one day as checking your cholesterol levels.

Right now, there’s one big obstacle:  Many insurers still consider them experimental and rarely cover them.

The cost of the tests are around $200. Some tests cost less based on a patient’s income.