What is the GeneSight® test?

It can be frustrating when you are suffering from a mental illness and have tried many different medications without benefit. Maybe you had intolerable side effects or maybe the medications just didn’t help. Maybe you just don’t want to spend a lot of time trying different medications to see which ones might be tolerated or work the best. This is when Pharmacogenetic testing might be helpful.

Pharmacogenetic testing looks at how your specific genes affect your body’s ability to metabolize, and in some cases respond, to different medications. Genes are what you inherit from your parents that gives you your unique characteristics, such as hair or eye color. Genes are made up of DNA. Much research is ongoing in psychiatry, examining how certain genes are not only expressed (aka become more active) when a person experiences certain situations such as childhood trauma, but also how particular gene types affect the response a person might have to a particular medication.

Pharmacogenetic testing cannot absolutely tell us which medication is going to be the most effective but it may help narrow down the choices. Testing will provide guidance on dose. For instance, depending on your genes, you may benefit from larger vs smaller doses of medications. It can also suggest which medications may cause more vs less side effects. Additionally, it can tell us if you have a particular serotonin transporter gene encoded by the SLC6A4 gene which means that SSRI’s may not be an effective treatment for you.

You might have heard about how problems with the MTHFR gene might affect mood and cause other health problems. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This gene provides instructions for a particular enzyme which helps your body break down a substance called homocysteine. Too much homocysteine is implicated in many diseases including cardiovascular problems (heart attacks and strokes), depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, colon cancer and even migraines. The test we use at Catalyst Psychiatry in Corvallis, Oregon also looks at this gene. If you have a MTHFR gene variant that is not functioning well, taking methylated folate may help your symptoms. Although it likely will not be a cure-all, Catalyst Pyschiatry believes it is still good for people in the Willamette Valley to know if they have this variant.

How much does GeneSight® cost?

The company Catalyst Psychiatry uses for our pharmacogenetic testing is Genesight. They have a sliding scale (max fee is $330) depending on your income and will bill your insurance, though many insurances do not cover this type of testing. We recommend you call your insurance company and Genesight prior to testing to determine your individual cost.

Catalyst Psychiatry offers testing to current patients as indicated. If you are already under the care of a psychiatric provider and would like to obtain Genesight testing through Catalyst Psychiatry, we charge a one-time fee of $300 for the consultation. This is not billed to insurance and is separate from the cost of the actual test. The consultation fee includes two, one hour appointments, one pre-test and one post-test. You are provided with a copy of your test results in an easily readable format that you can take to current and any future providers.

What does the GeneSight® procedure look like?

Obtaining the sample is very simple and painless. Two cotton swabs are used, one at a time, on different sides of the mouth to obtain genetic material. The cotton swabs are then placed in an envelope and FedEx’d to Genesight’s lab. Results are back within about a week.

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