What is pharmacogenomics?

Pharmacogenomics (PGx) is the study of how a person’s DNA affects their response to certain medications.

How does a person’s genetic makeup affect their response to medication?

Pharmacogenomics can help inform a patient whether a medication is right for them, in what dosage and how often. For example, people can be a fast metabolizer of a drug, which means they may need a higher dosage for it to be effective, or a slow metabolizer of a drug, which means they might need a lower dosage or a different drug altogether.

There are more than a hundred medications that are known to be impacted by a person’s genetics. These range from cardiovascular medications, pain medications, statins, medications for reflux and antidepressants.

Why are pharmacies getting involved in DNA testing?

Pharmacists are the medication experts. They understand how your body processes medications, can help you apply the results of your pharmacogenomic test to your current medication therapy and get you on medications that are suited to your genetic makeup.

Being on the frontline, pharmacists are also one of the most accessible health-care providers that can be found in nearly every community across the province. Thus, testing can be widely available with results being delivered in a responsible way.

Advances in the technology have also impacted the cost of testing to come down dramatically, allowing more and more people to be able to afford it.

Why is this important for patients?

Often times, how we respond to medications in a certain way is unexplained. Why does codeine work for some people, while not for others?

Not knowing can have serious implications. Ineffective medications can lead to wasted time, poor quality of life, missed work and even dangerous side effects.

Having this genetic information can help how a patient would respond to a medication, providing the patient and their healthcare team the necessary information to choose the ideal drug therapy for the patient potentially resulting in safer, more effective treatments with fewer side effects.

This sounds like a game changer for so many patients. What has been the reaction?

People are excited about this technology. Now, more than ever people are aware and concerned about what they put in their body. This information may help to avoid unnecessary trial and error with medications that may not work or might cause harmful side effects. Pharmacists are supportive because it gives them new insights and another tool to help their patients get the most out of their medications while reducing the chance of side effects.

What is myDNA?

myDNA is a genetic interpretation service. It was founded in 2007 by Associate Professor Les Sheffield, a pioneer in the field of genetics. The myDNA test had a robust track record of pharmacogenomic testing already occurring in community pharmacies, making it appropriate for B.C’s community pharmacy model.

What is the myDNA test?

The myDNA test is simple: You can go to a participating pharmacy, talk to the pharmacist to see if it’s right for you, then pay for a test. The pharmacy will collect basic information such as your name, date of birth and address, walk you through a consent form, take a cheek swab and mail the sample to myDNA’s accredited laboratory. In about 3-4 weeks, a report will be returned to the pharmacy where you took the test. The pharmacist will review your results with you and help make any necessary adjustments to your medications in collaboration with you and your prescriber.

What medications are covered by the test?

Medications that myDNA test can provide results on include:

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Blood pressure and heart medications
  • Blood thinners
  • Pain medications
  • Reflux medications

Is this a one-time test or do you have to take multiple tests for different medications?

Your DNA does not change. You can use the test report as a reference for your current and future prescription needs.

How much does the test cost? Are there shipping costs or any additional fees?

Commencing December 1st, we are running a promotion with the Single Medication Test starting at $149 and the Multi-Medication Test at $199. There are no additional fees or shipping costs.

How is this different than other genetic testing services that are sold to patients?

People tend to think of DNA testing as a way to find out if they have a chance of getting Alzheimer’s, certain cancers or what their ancestry is.

Pharmacogenomic testing is a type of test that doesn’t diagnose or give a prognosis on disease states. This is all about using your DNA to look at only medications – like those for mental health, cardiovascular, pain and gastrointestinal drugs – will work for you and in what dosages. This is a tool to help pharmacists, prescribers and patients make a very specific action, such as changing a medication or dosage so it works best for the patient.

Unlike other genetic tests, these tests are not sold direct-to-consumer, which leave patients to try to figure out results for themselves. The myDNA pharmacogenomic testing service is recommended by a pharmacist, a health-care professional and medication expert, who can provide interpretation, consultation and advisement on the test results and coordinate with the patient and the patient’s prescriber.

Why do I need to involve a pharmacist? Can I just do a test myself like 23andMe and get my results?

There are many genetic tests on the market, some of which a person does for more recreational interest, which don’t lead to any action being taken by the consumer. However, the results of a pharmacogenomic test can be difficult to understand for an average individual, but also can lead to actions that will impact their medication therapy and health. We want to ensure that this information is delivered responsibly by a trained medication expert who can help translate the results and ensure that the results are going to be applied in a meaningful way to the patient.

How many pharmacies in Canada offer this service?

Currently, there are 80 pharmacies registered across Canada in several provinces that can provide the myDNA test kit, with more than 60 in B.C. offering the service. Many more are coming on board every day. By year end 2017, we estimate up to 150 pharmacies will have signed up to provide this service.

How can patients find out more information or find a pharmacy that offers this service?

Patients can go to and click on “Find a Pharmacy” to find one closest to them.