Getting it just right—the right medication, at the proper dose, with the fewest side effects—is
easier said than done. Parents of ADHD children understand that better than most.
A new test, about $100, is now available to determine medications that would work best with your child’s unique genetic profile. The test could put an end to the slow and frustrating process of adjusting dosages and switching medications.
This news is even more important given a recent Centers for Disease report showing 70% of all children diagnosed with ADHD in the U.S. are treated with medication. In Massachusetts, that percentage climbs to over 75%.
The Harmonyx test is available at 3,500 pharmacies nationwide with a doctor’s prescription. Massachusetts lacks participating pharmacies currently; however several drugstores in nearby states provide the test. The participating pharmacy closest to Cape Cod is in Clifton, New Jersey, 171 miles south. For other drugstores, see the pharmacy locator.
The test involves taking a swab of your child’s inside cheek and sending it to a central laboratory for analysis. The test compares four genes that have been linked to ADHD enzymes with your child's specific genetic metabolism to determine which prescriptions would be the most effective. The report you receive categorizes commonly prescribed ADHD medications into three lists:
Try these first: Best choice
Try these next: Can be effective with proper monitoring
Try these last: Use these only as a last option
A full list of ADHD medications analyzed in the test is on the company’s website.
Negative side effects are often the reason parents take children off ADHD medications. The problems of insomnia, weight loss, anxiety and slow growth, for example, outweigh the medications’ benefits say many parents, according to ADDitude Magazine.
Fitting drugs to a patient’s genetic profile is not a new discovery; it’s a form of personalized medicine known as pharmacogenetics testing, identified 50 years ago.
Affordability and availability have slowed the spread of the practice, especially for cases of ADHD. Another company, Assurex Health, began offering ADHD pharmacogentics testing in 2012, but it is only available through doctors' offices. Some users have said the Assurex Health's test, known as GeneSightRx for ADHD, has billed insurance companies $3,000 or more, and coverage is not necessarily common. Some hospital systems, such as Duke University, also do in-house testing in their own labs.
Pharmacogenetics testing is more common in treating depression, especially in seniors and veterans, and both companies have separate tests for those applications. Medicare and the Department of Veterans Affairs often provide insurance coverage in those instances.
According to GeneSight customer support, GeneSightRx testing is provided by five healthcare providers in or near Cape Cod, including two in Mashpee. However, it is unclear whether the test is provided for ADHD, or just for depression in seniors and veterans.
Your first step in finding out whether Harmonyx is worth considering, is sharing this article with your child’s doctor. The testing could be one more tool to help in getting it just right when treating your child’s ADHD.