Not everyone reacts the same way to common medications. For example, approximately 10 percent of the population is allergic to penicillin, a common antibiotic used in the treatment of everything from skin infections to strep throat.
A small number of people will even enter anaphylactic shock after consuming penicillin antibiotics. For nearly every medication, from aspirin to zidovudine, there are people who react poorly to the prescribed treatment.
In addition to simply reacting poorly to prescribed medications, there are also other people for whom the current presence of drugs in the body contraindicates the effects of the new treatment. Think of the oft-repeated advice not to combine alcohol and Tylenol, for example; repeated use of this combination can lead to developing kidney disease.
The same advice goes for combining other types of drugs, whether they are common over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or specialized drugs like dexamethasone or vinblastine. When your doctor prescribes a new medication, it is important to ensure that you are not currently taking any medications or drugs that might cause unwanted adverse effects.
The same goes for illegal drug use. Some patients do not want to admit to their doctors that they are using cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines or other illegal drugs; they may be hesitant to even mention that they smoke the occasional marijuana cigarette or use marijuana vapor, even if the THC is medically prescribed. This is one of the worst things you can do as a patient; yes, admitting to drug use is hard, but it is an essential part of ensuring you get the right medical treatment for your current illness or condition.
Luckily, there are ways that hospitals can help ensure you get the best treatment possible while avoiding medications and prescriptions that have adverse effects or work poorly with the drugs and treatments you are already taking. Both drug testing and pharmacogenetic testing help doctors to make the best choices possible regarding you and your treatment.
This type of drug test is exactly what it sounds like: a urine-based drug test similar to the one you might take as part of an employment procedure. However, unlike drug tests designed to be punitive, this drug test is designed to help you, by letting your medical treatment team know what types of drugs — prescription or otherwise — are still in your system and how to ensure they do not prescribe medications that are contraindicated.
To quote the team at millenniumlabs.com: “[Urine drug testing] identifies medications and other substances present in, or absent from, a patient’s system at the time of the test. UDT results provide useful information for the safe and effective management of prescription medications.”
The word “pharmacogenetic” literally means combining pharmaceuticals with genetics. To quote yourgenome.org: “Pharmacogenomics research aims to identify the genes that influence drug responses. The hope is that this information can then be used to tailor drug treatments to individuals’ genetic make up.”
Certain aspects of the way your body responds to illness or treatment are literally determined by your genes. This means that there are two benefits to pharmacogenetic testing. First: if doctors are able to identify that you carry a particular gene that reacts adversely to a type of medication, they are able to avoid prescribing you that medication. Secondly, they are able to look at your treatment after the fact and compare the drugs they prescribed to your genetic makeup. If you reacted in a way they did not expect, it may mean that other people with similar genes will react in the same way.
This type of medical testing has one purpose: to prescribe the best possible treatment, every time. If your doctor suggests drug testing or pharmacogenetic testing prior to administering treatment, know that it is done with your best interests in mind, and will help you get the best medical care available.