Alumnus Wendela Wessels

From her home and office in Silicon Valley (California), Wendela Wessels talks about pharmacogenomic testing.

We already knew that DNA plays a significant role in how we respond to medication, but the LUMC publication in the Lancet has now also confirmed that through pharmacogenomic testing the risk of adverse drug reactions can be reduced.

Adverse drug reactions are the sixth leading cause of death

There is much to be gained by preventing adverse drug reactions. For example, more than a million people in the Netherlands take antidepressants. In 30-50% of these people, the medication does not work well. These patients try to find out - through trial and error – what actually does work for them. Now, thanks to their pharmacogenomic report, all those years of misery can suddenly be explained. 

The Pill and DNA

Alumnus Wendela Wessels
Wendela Wessels

The birth control pill is widely used and generally accepted. But did you know that there are women who have a gene variant that increases their risk of developing blood clots? With the newer-generation contraceptive pills, the risk of life-threatening blood clots increases disproportionately. Some women really need to avoid that particular contraception. 

Another gene may cause contraceptives to fail. You can’t use a medical questionnaire to uncover this kind of information.
You have to do a genetic profile test. 

mijnmedicijn / meamedica

mijnmedicijn and meamedica facilitate and encourage the sharing of experiences with medication. On the websites, people are not only provided with information, but also with recognition and acknowledgement. To better support patients, the pharmacogenomic test has been added. Anyone can buy a test kit. All you have to do is scrape the inside of your cheek with a cotton swab and you’re done. The test proves to be a real source of information: for different reasons depending on the person. What they derive from it is an improvement in their health. Our patients actively pursue that themselves.

To study pharmacy was not a decision but pure coincidence. Because of the lottery system I could not get into the program of my initial choice. I had to choose something else. Pharmacy seemed interesting. I’ll do that for a year, I thought. One of the first subjects was Organic Chemistry. I immediately found that very interesting.

How have you built your career path?

'I basically always went for what came on my path. My only active choice was to start working in a community pharmacy, coming from the pharmaceutical industry. Opportunities presented themselves, and I took the plunge. Not from a clear-cut plan. Moving to America with my family was not part of a plan either. We had lived in the same house for many years, usually went on vacation to the same country. I think you have to seize opportunities. And do what you like. Then you will naturally become good at what you do.’

It would be really nice if there are healthcare providers among the readers who are enthusiastic about pharmacogenomics and would like to get started with DNA testing. They can visit and may have the test kits in their practice as soon as tomorrow.