ADHD News & Research

Harmonyx Releases New Genetic Test for ADHD Meds

A new genetic test claims to assess which medication will work best for an ADHD patient — before treatment starts — to avoid potential side effects.

March 10, 2015

Every patient reacts to ADHD medication differently, and the trial-and-error required to find the right balance between efficacy and side effects can be frustrating for many children and adults. Up until this point, medical professionals haven’t been able to identify a better way, subjecting patients to the slow and sometimes agonizing process of adjusting dosages and switching medications.

Now, a company called Harmonyx has released a genetic test for ADHD patients to determine which medication will work best for their unique makeup. Different medications are metabolized through different pathways in the body, each using particular enzymes to carry the medication to neurotransmitters in the brain. Harmonyx’s test looks at four genes — CYP2B6, CYP2D6, ADRA2A, and COMT — that have been linked to the affected enzymes and the specific patient’s metabolism.

The test requires that the patient swab his inner cheek and send the sample to Harmonyx for analysis. Once the company receives the completed test, results can be sent to the treating physician within 24 hours.

Harmonyx gives patients and doctors three categories of medications: “Try these first” (best choice); “Try these next” (may be effective if used with proper monitoring); and “Try these last” (to be used only as a last option or in conjunction with an alternative therapy). The test covers the most commonly prescribed ADHD drugs — Adderall, Ritalin, Strattera, Vyvanse, and Wellbutrin. For a full list of ADHD medications that the test analyzes, see Harmonyx’s website.

Between 2007 and 2011, the number of children taking ADHD medication in the United States increased by 28 percent. However, this high prescription rate was not closely associated with more long-term medication use or more effective treatment. For methylphenidate in particular, certain studies have found that up to 65 percent of patients stop taking their medication within six months — most commonly because of unwanted side effects.

Medication is not for everyone, and some alternative therapies may be effective in treating ADHD. However, if a patient chooses to try medication, Harmonyx argues, side effects and less-than-optimal results should be avoided from the beginning.

The Harmonyx ADHD test costs less than $100, and it can be purchased from select pharmacies around the country — for pharmacy locations, see Harmonyx’s pharmacy locator.