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The most expensive medication is the one that doesn’t work

“What’s the most expensive medication?” someone recently asked me.

I tilted my head as I thought. Then came the answer: “it’s the one that doesn’t work.”

This. I felt this in my soul. Because I lived this. I thought about how many wasted days of feeling dumpy. How much money I spent on paying for medication that didn’t work. How much time I wasted trying to find something that would help me feel better, not worse. How much time I spent feeling anxious, depressed, worried, and just plain awful.

All while I was on medication that was supposed to help me feel better.

Tour in Afghanistan Leads to Anxiety, Depression

Patient Story: photo of Ashley

I spent six years in the military, with a tour in Afghanistan. While there, I started to experience anxiety, panic attacks and difficulty sleeping. I went to see the medic on base who prescribed something to help me sleep.

When I returned to the U.S., I knew something was wrong with me. I was still experiencing all of the symptoms of anxiety and having panic attacks. I reached out to Veterans Affairs, but had trouble reaching someone.

In the meantime, I found out I was pregnant with my first child. So, I pushed aside my own feelings and started to think about the transition to becoming a mother. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Then, a few months later, I became pregnant again.

I was 4 months pregnant with my second child when I thought: “something’s not right with me.” I had horrible, dark days, so I went to my OB-GYN, and told her I needed help. I was having physical symptoms in addition to what was going on in my mind – I mean, I was losing weight while being pregnant. She sat me down and told me that I was not leaving her office until we had an appointment with a psychiatrist.

I went to the psychiatrist, who believed I was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, depression and panic disorder. They prescribed an antidepressant (a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor or SSRI). I started on a low dose that the doctor would increase slowly over a month and a half.

For a while, it really helped. I felt good – I felt my energy come back and I didn’t feel that sense of impending doom.

After the birth of my second child, I was feeling relatively OK, but still had bouts of anxiety and depression. So, my psychiatrist increased my dosage to 150 mg. That’s when it really got bad: I started feeling so much worse and having suicidal thoughts.

The psychiatrist wanted to add another medication. I refused; I didn’t want to be on another medication. So, the psychiatrist suggested increasing the dosage to 200 mg. That’s when my occasional suicidal thoughts started to become unrelenting. One night, I sat in my garage in my darkness and was so, so scared by my thoughts.

I went to bed that night and knew I needed to talk to someone. I work at a general practitioner’s office as an admin (I’m studying to be a nurse), and immediately went to see the physician’s assistant (PA) in the office the next day.

“We’re Giving You the GeneSight Test”

The PA listened to me and said: “we’re doing two things immediately 1) we’re reducing your dosage back to 150 mg and 2) we’re giving you the GeneSight test.”

I was vaguely aware of the GeneSight test but wasn’t sure what it did. When the PA explained it to me, it made so much sense that I agreed to take it on the spot. She swabbed my cheek and sent off the sample to the lab – it was very easy.

When she got the results back, the medication that I was taking was in the moderate-gene drug interaction category. She reviewed the clinical considerations of the report and understood the reason why I couldn’t tolerate it at high dosages. We talked through options and I agreed with her treatment plan – weening off the SSRI and starting on a different type of serotonergic antidepressant. The weening process was horrible, but worth it.

After a few weeks of starting on the new medication, I noticed a strange feeling one day when I was driving. I felt good. It was so odd after feeling horrible for so long. I started getting back to my hobbies like running and playing with my boys.

I tell my friends about the GeneSight test and how it informed the PA of my potential gene-drug interactions. You know, you trust your doctors – they have all this medical experience. Yet, everyone is different. Doctors treat human beings all with unique DNA. They introduce medicine into the mix, and they don’t know how it is going to work. My question for doctors is why wouldn’t you give the GeneSight test to help provide a little more insight?

The GeneSight test – along with my doctors – helped me get better and feel more like myself than I have in a long time.

This story is one patient’s personal experience. Other patients may not have the same experience or outcome. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.

The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.

If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.