To mark World Diabetes Day, we are asking whether people who take medication to control their diabetes might be able to improve the effectiveness of their treatment using pharmacogenomics testing.
There are many different types of diabetes medication which work in different ways to control blood sugar levels. Not all drugs are suitable for everyone.
Some diabetes drugs may produce unwanted side-effects and sometimes the dosage may need to be adjusted to suit an individual.
It can take some time for clinicians to identify the right medication and dose for you and Diabetes UK advises on its website “don’t be disheartened if you find yourself needing to change or stop certain medications”.
In fact, statistics show that 43% of patients with diabetes will not respond to the treatment prescribed initially.
Pharmacogenomics offers a simple way to avoid having to use this trial and error approach to prescribing diabetes drugs. It means you could benefit from faster relief from symptoms and fewer side-effects.
Side-effects of diabetes drugs
One of the most commonly prescribed drugs for type 2 diabetes is metformin. It works by cutting blood sugar, lowering the amount of sugar produced in the liver and improving your body’s use of insulin. Metformin can cause a range of side-effects including nausea and upset stomach. Rarely it can lead to a serious condition called lactic acidosis, which is the build up of lactic acid in the body. If you are taking certain other drugs, such as anticholinergic drugs, they can affect the way metformin works.
Other common diabetes drugs are sulfonylureas, such as Glucotrol, Amaryl and Micronase which help the pancreas to produce more insulin, resulting in lower blood sugar. A common side-effect of this type of drug is low blood sugar, which can cause dizziness, confusion and sweating. In rare cases it can be life-threatening. There are around 100 drugs, including oral contraceptives and thyroid medicines, that can interfere with sulfonylureas and affect the way they work.
Other common diabetes drugs can also lead to unpleasant and sometimes serious side-effects. These include: thiazolidinediones, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and SGLT2 inhibitors.
How pharmacogenomics can help
Pharmacogenomics is a branch of personalised medicine. It uses information about a person’s genetic make-up to determine the medication, and dosage, that is most likely to work for them. Using a simple saliva test, which can be performed by your GP or clinician, a genetic sample is collected and sent away to the laboratory to be tested. Pharmacogenomics can show:
- whether a particular medication may be an effective treatment for you/
- the optimum dosage.
- whether you are likely to experience serious side-effects from taking this medication.
Once the sample has been analysed in the laboratory, the test results and a personalised treatment plan is sent to your doctor. It will help to guide their prescribing decisions and ensure that you receive the right medication to manage your diabetes.
Personalised medicine is likely to become increasingly important in the years to come. It is already being used in the treatment of a wide range of diseases.
The Myogenes test assays 50 well-established pharmacogenomics genes and detects around 200 variants.