How Genetic DNA Testing Saved My Life

How genetic testing saved my life from depression– with Dr. Oz

Video Transcription

Dr. Oz : There is no question millions of people are helped by antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs every day. But all too often the road to figuring out the right pill or cocktail of drugs that can bring relief is a difficult one. So it raised the question, is there a better way to prescribe psychiatric drugs? I want you to meet Kristen who started suffering from depression when she was a teenager. She was still tortured by her negative thoughts. She tried to take her own life. Thank you for being here. Share your story. What happened?

Christen : Yeah. So I knew when I was a senior in high school that I was destined for a mental health crisis and I would have two mental health crises before the age of 30, the first of which was when I was a junior in college. I was tortured by daily negative thoughts. I had suicidal thoughts, but I never acted on them. And then I was on an antidepressant that worked for me for about four years and those were the four happiest, most stable years of my life. And then I decided that I didn’t need the antidepressants anymore. So I talked to my doctor and I told him I don’t think I need them anymore. So he gave me a schedule to taper off the medication and I followed the schedule exactly. And then I started graduate school shortly after that and I began to have daily suicidal thoughts. I was tortured by images of all different ways that I could end my suffering. 

Dr. Oz : Oh my. Could you ever acted in any of these impulses?

Christen: I did, yes. I was so tortured by these thoughts that I resorted to cutting and burning myself. And I attempted suicide. I woke up one morning and I tried to electrocute myself in a bathtub. 

Dr. Oz : So how did you finally pull back from that abyss where you’re trying to take your own life? Just trial and error on these different antidepressants, antipsychotic medications?

Christen: Yes. So I had daily suicidal thoughts for about a year and a half. I saw over 20 different mental health professionals throughout that year. I tried over 15 different kinds of medications, including a lot of different antidepressants until I finally met a doctor who told me exactly what was wrong with me. 

Dr. Oz : And just to bring everyone into the story after a lot of this trial and error that’s, those are huge numbers of medications you have tried. Kristin tried a DNA test that looks at your mental health genetic markers. Listen when I give you a blood pressure pill. I can tell pretty quickly if it works, good blood pressure comes down, right? Your cholesterol medications, you can tell if they work or not. I get a blood test, I can tell. But with mental health issues, it’s not so clear because you don’t have a test that gives you the answer. But genetic testing offers us a huge change, everybody. It can dramatically alter their shotgun hit or miss approach we had been using. So what does your DNA test show?

Christen : So my genetic testing results indicated that I have two faulty genetic mechanisms that make it so that my brain does not produce adequate amounts of serotonin and my brain does not recycle serotonin properly. So actually without being on medication, the sort of baseline in my brain is a depressed state.

Dr Oz : When you use the genetic testing to predict which drugs would work, what kind of benefit did you get? How’s your mental health change?

Christen: Oh, it saved my life. With that information, I feel like I am empowered with this information for the rest of my life. Once my doctor prescribed medication that specifically targeted those genetic deficits, I started to feel better within weeks,

Dr. Oz : Within weeks, does after spending a dozen years of your life trying to take your life at times. So this is a- I mean, again, thank you for sharing this. This is a kind of case we see our psychiatric drugs save a life and that’s important for everyone to understand when used correctly it is hugely powerful when used incorrectly, bad stuff can happen and I’m very happy that you’re doing well and I want to share with everybody how your life was saved because they can save others as well. There are lots of companies now they’re making tests like this. Genetic tests, like the one that Kristen used. Her specific test is called the Genecept assay by Genomind. And the Genecept assay is a cool idea and the vice president of medical affairs for the company, Dr. Dan Dao is here. Explain to everybody what this test does. 

DNA TESTER : Sure. First I’d like to thank Kristen for sharing the story. I mean we hear these stories. We hear these stories all the time from doctors and patients who struggle to find the right antidepressant. And so we’re glad our tests could help you and your doctor. So a little bit about the test. It is a genetic test designed to match the right medication with the right person. The process is pretty simple. It’s a cheek swab. So patient swabs cheek for about 30 seconds to a minute; mails that to our lab, the lab does the analysis and in about three days you get a report back which identifies different genes that are associated with side effects to certain medications or overall response to certain medications. So just as an example, about a percent of the people in this room don’t metabolize some of the common antidepressants. And if you know that information ahead of time, you select a different type of antidepressant as opposed to the ones that you don’t metabolize well.

Dr. Oz:  That’s 8% right off the bat but then the part that got my attention is if you’re resistant like Kristen was if you have to use a second medication right, that only works 25% of the time. So imagine genetic casting, increasing the odds of getting it right from the start or getting it right that the first one doesn’t work. You’ve got lots of opportunities. The only question for me is how expensive these things are. Is it covered by insurance? 

DNA Tester: Yeah. Good question. And that depends on, it largely depends on insurance. There is a lot of variabilities there depending on the plan and the state, et cetera. What we’re finding is that on average our patients are paying about $300 for the test. We also offer patients assistance programs, financial assistance to try to make it as affordable as possible.  Speaker 1: So more and more insurance companies are saying, I’d rather save Kristen’s life or keep her out of the hospital, try to commit suicide and spend the 300 bucks. So why shoot in the dark? We finally had information that can help target this more effectively. We’ll be right back

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