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How To Take a Successful Pharmacogenomic Test

Prairie’s mission is to make finding comprehensive mental health care—including a personalized medication regimen—as simple as possible. One of the ways we do this is by offering an easy-to-take genetic test to all our members.

Prairie’s mission is to make finding comprehensive mental health care—including a personalized medication regimen—as simple as possible. One of the ways we do this is by offering the option of an easy-to-take genetic test (more specifically, a pharmacogenomic test) to all our clients. 

(If you’d like to learn more about genetic testing, you can read our blog posts on how it works and why it is a part of our mission). 

Our Test

Currently, Prairie uses a simple buccal swab test, or what you may know as a cheek swab test. While many genetic testing companies are known for using saliva tests, research shows that such tests are hard to take for some people. Many find it hard to direct their spit into a small tube or produce enough saliva for the test to be done properly.

A typical buccal swab test can be less stressful. You simply have to swab the inside of your cheek for a short period (usually around a minute). The friction between the swab and the inside of your cheek causes epithelial cells to rub off onto the swab in a generally painless process. After you send the sample off for testing, scientists use the epithelial cells to look at your DNA and formulate your test results. 

Now that we know how the tests work, let’s go over the steps to taking a successful Prairie pharmacogenetic test. 

Before you begin:

Make sure that you do NOT eat or drink for one hour before collecting your samples.

Having food or drink material present in your saliva might compromise the results of your test. This makes it harder to find a customized treatment plan that works for you.

The test:

1) Place the unopened swab and vial on a clean, level surface.

This allows you to take a quick scan of what you have. This helps you know if you have misplaced something or forgot to take it out of the box. Organizing things at this step ensures a smoother testing process, as opposed to scrambling to find a vial with a swab in your mouth.

2) Use the swab to firmly scrape the inside of both cheeks, while rotating the swab, for 30-60 seconds.

Rotating the swab allows you to cover its entire surface area instead of just one section. This means our lab will have more genetic material to analyze. For this same reason, we also ask you to swab for 30-60 sections at a time. Not enough swabbing means that there will be less of an opportunity for your epithelial cells to fall onto the swab and possibly not enough material for a proper test.

If there is ever not enough DNA material to examine, people sometimes have to retake tests to ensure reliable results. Being careful to follow instructions will help ensure that your genetic test results are accurate and arrive within a reasonable time period. 

3) Open the vial and insert the swab. Snap it off at the breaking point, leaving the swab-end inside the vial.

Think of the vial as protecting your privacy and protecting the swab from any contaminants. In the lab, our tests aren’t labeled with names for privacy reasons. Instead, every person’s vial has a different code. 

4) Close the vial, insert it into the clear plastic bag, and seal the bag.

The sealed bag adds an extra layer of protection that prevents the closed vial from being jostled around in transit and getting damaged. This extra step helps ensure that your genetic test results do not get compromised. 

5) Place the sealed plastic bag inside the welcome kit box, and seal it.

Yes, your welcome box doubles as a return package. That’s just one way we make the genetic testing process as convenient as possible. 

6) Drop your box off at a nearby post office or a USPS mailbox. 

Now, it’s time to wait until your genetic test results to come back. This process generally takes approximately two weeks. However, delays as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or other extenuating circumstances may occur. 


While you wait for your genetic test results, there are many things to do and resources to look through that will help you take charge of your mental health journey (our blog being one of them!). Mental health isn’t just test results and medication; it’s a holistic experience that involves your emotional as well as your biochemical wellbeing. 

If you’re a current Prairie client and have any other questions about our pharmacogenomic test (or just need some emotional support), simply text your Care Coordinator.

If you’re not currently a Prairie client, and you’re wondering whether genetic testing might help you get better treatment, you can take our free pharmacogenomic testing quiz to get some more information.

Take Our PGx Quiz

Sun Mar 21 2021

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