British Columbia

Test your DNA at a pharmacy? Now you can

A new DNA test being offered at select Canadian pharmacies, including dozens in B.C., will allow pharmacists to find the best medication and dosages for patients.

MyDNA program will allow pharmacists to determine which medications will work best for patients

The MyDNA tests are currently being offered at 80 Canadian pharmacies as part of the initial project roll-out. (Shutterstock / Africa Studio)

A new DNA test being offered at select Canadian pharmacies will allow pharmacists to determine how patients will respond to different medications, according to researchers.

The MyDNA tests are currently offered at 80 pharmacies across the country, including 60 in B.C., as part of an initial program roll-out that started this fall. 

By testing participants' DNA, pharmacists hope to better assess which medications and what dosages will be most effective for individuals based on their genetic profile.

"Personalized medicine has now advanced to the stage where one simple test can reveal how your body will uniquely respond to the medicines you take, based on genetics," said Kelowna pharmacist Cam Bonnell of Lakeside Pharmacy.

"We would be able to find out at the time of prescribing which medications would work best for you."

Not covered by MSP

As part of the optional test, a pharmacist will take a cheek swab and send the sample to a lab for testing. After three to four weeks, the pharmacist will explain the results to the patient and modify a prescription or speak to a doctor, if necessary.

Dr. Corey Nislow says the testing program could help save time as health-care providers try to determine the best drug for individual patients, while also reducing potential side effects.

"We hope to show with real world data that this decreases the time for a patient to get on the right drug," said Nislow, an associate professor of pharmacy at the University of British Columbia.

"Right now, it could take several weeks before the patient even knows whether or not they will be responding favourably or unfavourably."

'Sets a standard for privacy and security'

In terms of privacy, Nislow said the tests are identified simply by a barcode and only provide specific information about certain drug reactions.

"It really sets a standard for privacy and security."

A spokesperson for MyDNA said the commercial program will be in pharmacies as long as patients find the tests useful and continue to purchase them.

The test costs $149 and is currently not covered by B.C.'s Medical Services Plan.

Participating pharmacies can be found online.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South.