Archive for April, 2019

The Failed Promise of Technology (Not)

April 20th, 2019


This was the title of a speech that one of my former Chief Scientific Officers used to give on a regular basis. I added the NOT because, for the past decade I’ve been working with scientists in a field that provides a technology that is proving to be invaluable. Unfortunately, it is still not being utilized by the vast majority of the physicians in the medical community because it is not being taught in the majority of the medical schools. This is primarily because it takes about 17 to 20 years for many discoveries and new technologies to become mainstream.

This technology involves genetic analytics and is called Pharmacogenomics, a long word with an easy explanation. By analyzing the 300 genes that metabolize medicines, science can now pinpoint how we, individually, will respond to specific drugs. This is truly precision medicine. With just two cotton swabs of saliva, the genetic equipment and the scientists can predict how you personally will respond to specific drugs. Imagine not having to take the drug to see if you will have the side-effect before you have that side-effect.

Not ironically, the physicians who are happy to use the pharmacogenomics test are psychiatrists. As a non-physician and non-scientists, these docs have explained to me that some psychotropic drugs actually exaggerate the symptoms for which they have been prescribed. So, if you get a prescription for schizophrenia, it may cause you to be more schizophrenic. If, though, you can tell how the patient will react to the drug before it’s given, why not?

Ironically, this test has touched both my life and the life of many of my friends. The examples are both moving and, in some cases, terrifying. In my own personal experience, I was admitted to the hospital 20 years ago on the verge of having a myocardial infarction. Two decades later, I received the results of my Pharmacogenomics test and read the following, “If you take x-statin, it could cause you to have a myocardial infarction.” X – was the drug that I was taking at the time.

My wife was experiencing severe gastric distress from a drug that she was on, and when she received her test results, one of the warning symptoms based upon her genetic make-up, was that she would have severe gastric distress. The good news was that there were five other drugs that could be used to treat her symptom that did not produce those outcomes.

My brother had experienced negative effects from pain medicines during previous medical encounters, and when he was admitted to the hospital with a collapsed disc, he cautioned his caregivers about these sensitivities. They simply replied, “We will be mindful of your sensitivities.” He was overdosed the following day, and his kidneys were permanently damaged.

One of my friends who, ironically, had worked at a hospital, called me to inform me that, at age 42, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She asked me to help her find the best physicians and the best hospital for her care. One of my suggestions was a pharmacogenomics test prior to chemo. She took the test, informed her physician that the drug he was prescribing would not work with her genetic makeup, and he said, “Don’t worry, it will be fine.” Eighteen months later, the cancer came back in exactly the same place.

This test is not negative toward pharmaceutical companies or physicians, it simply provides them with a “tool box” for decision making in regard to the individual genetic make-up of the patient. The best news is that these tests not only provide you and your physician with the information that you need regarding your personal ability to metabolize the prescription you’re being given, but it also contains a myriad of data substantiating the information you’re being provided.

Get the test. It just may save your life.