Medical House Call: DNA swab can see if Plavix works for you

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Plavix is prescribed each month to millions of Americans with heart disease. The blood clotting drug is the number two heart pill in the world, behind Lipitor, but it doesn't work for everyone.

Dr. Charles Mayes, a Cardiologist at Wesley Medical Center said, "We know that about 30% of the population has some element of resistance to Plavix. They don't get the full anti-coagulation or blood thinning effect."

The FDA has added a boxed warning to the label of Plavix about patients who do not effectively metabolize the drug.

"They require the makers of Plavix to put this warning on the box, that says, hey some of you guys may not respond to this medication. The problem has been, there hasn't really been a great way to test people for that," said Mayes.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University, The Scripps Institute and Johns Hopkins University have come up with an easy way for Cardiologists like Mayes to test how patients respond to certain drugs.

Mayes said, "It is a readily available, easy to use genetic test that doesn't require blood to be drawn."

The process itself is simple, a few swabs of saliva are taken and sent off to a lab, which uses your DNA samples to determine whether the drug is a good match.

"We can look people in the eye and say, I am putting you on these drugs because iIknow that they are going to reduce your risk of dying, having a heart attack, or having a stroke and that really goes for at least five or six different classes of drugs that we use on a daily basis."

It's the future of prescribing medications said Mayes, not only to produce better outcomes for patients but also to cut healthcare costs.

"Drug coverage is a huge issue, it is a huge expense. If Plavix is going to cost somebody $120 to $140 a month, or it's going to cost the insurance companies money and it's not working, then there is no reason to have the patient on it."

Genetic testing can also be used to gauge the effectiveness of the blood thinner coumadin, as well as beta blockers and cholesterol drugs.

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