How much faith should be put into genetic testing?

A doctor examines genetic information. (WCHS/WVAH)

Why do some people get a particular disease and some don't? Why do some medicines work for one person and not someone else? A person's genetic makeup could be the answer.

"It gives us a lot of helpful information," said Dr. Kim Kelly of the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy where she studies genetics. "If the person is already exhibiting symptoms and we want to understand the condition they are dealing with, better genetics can really help us there."

Genetics can also determine the best medicines for you. Eyewitness News Reporter Gil McClanahan recently had that test done at a pharmacy in Scott Depot.

"We are going to do a cheek swab to perform the Pharmaco Genetic Testing," said Lindsay Crowley, pharmacy manager of Fruth Pharmacy in Scott Depot. "Our genetic makeup is different in each individual and unfortunately the medications that are on the market right now do not necessarily take that into effect."

After swabbing each cheek for 45 seconds, the swabs were sent to MD Labs in Reno, Nev., for analysis. They developed the test.

"We are going to tell you what is probably not going to work for you," said Matthew Rutledge, chief executive officer of MD Labs. He is quick to point out the test results are not intended to replace a doctor.

"You might watch out for this and that that's how our reports are phrased. You might want to watch out for this. Something to consider in the overall picture of this patient's health. We don't give cut and dry this medication is right for this person data," Rutledge said.

Your test results are sent to your doctor, and a trained pharmacist goes over the results with you.

"They show that you (Gil) were a rapid metabolizer for some medications meaning that based on the kind of medication in your body you could either have a high response to that medication meaning too much of the drug is in your system or that the drug is actually ineffective," said Nick Dominick, a pharmacist with Fruth Pharmacy.

So how much faith should one put in the results of genetic testing? Kelly said it depends on the person's background.

"My default is always to say your best defense is a good family history. To sit down with your family and discuss with them what actual conditions are happening in the family," Kelly said.

Kelly said family history and genetic testing are nice combinations, but she points out people should be cautious with genetic tests and the results because it could cause unnecessary fear about your risk of a certain type of disease.

"You're going from 10 to 20 percent or .3 to 1 percent. There's not really much difference there in terms of what you would do anyway," Kelly said.

Under a doctor's care, genetic testing can be beneficial, Kelly said, but family and medical history provide better information to determine if you are at risk for a certain disease.

In some cases, the Pharmaco Genetic Test done at Fruth Pharmacy may be covered by insurance. Out-of-pocket it costs $399.99.

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