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Image by Manisha Talukdar

What if your pharmacist could predict how you would respond to medications? Worries about unpleasant side effects and lack of effectiveness of medications would be a thing of the past!

Say ‘good-bye’ to guess-work and ‘hello’ to personalized medications.

Medical treatments are designed for the “average patient” and the “one-size-fits-all-treatments” are proven to be very successful for some patients but not others. The term ‘precision medicine’ made headlines when President Barack Obama announced the US initiative to equip health care providers with new tools to select drugs or treatments customized to the patient.  Pharmacogenetics (PGx) is the facet of precision or personalized medicine that has the potential to improve health care outcomes for the majority of the population.

A DNA profile with a patient’s genetic variation can guide prescribers to select drugs that minimize harmful side effects and ensure a successful outcome.  Some variations such as a patient’s age, lifestyle, existing comorbidities and other medications are already being taken into account in a prescriber’s selection of a drug. Now, health care providers can consider genetic predisposition as a crucial clinical factor to predict how a patient will react to a certain drug.

Currently, the US FDA recommends genetic testing for over 150 medications in an effort to improve drug safety.  A patient’s inability to metabolize a drug can result in high rates of toxic side effects that can adversely impact a patient’s well-being, which will result in an increase in the cost of care.  PGx can help identify medications that are not compatible with a patient’s metabolic response and provide personalized dosage and prescription recommendations leading to a more effective medication therapy.  PGx increases the probability that the patient will receive the benefit that the prescriber expects from the medication. Statistics show that 1-in-4 primary care patients in North America are prescribed at least one medication that will cause an adverse drug reaction due to genetic variability in drug metabolism.

At present there is little agreement on which individuals should prescribe, interpret or communicate the PGx results to the patient.  It is expected that the patient would prefer receiving the result from a trusted and familiar provider, such as a pharmacist. Pharmacists have been rated to be the most accessible and trusted healthcare professional in the industry.  Additionally, community pharmacists or consultant pharmacists are ideally positioned to effectively communicate the results with both the treating physician and the patients. A recent study published in the Journal of American Pharmacists Association demonstrated that community pharmacists can easily implement PGx, and that these results can be easily relayed to both physicians and patients.

Two issues that can impede the adoption of PGx by pharmacists are the absence of reimbursement for PGx tests, and the implementation of PGx by physicians, bypassing pharmacists.  At present, reimbursements for PGx tests are not available in Canada as insurers want to be certain that the test results can improve outcomes.  Also physicians are aiming to adopt PGx with companies like Genelex and Genxys developing PGx solutions targeted at physicians.  However, many pharmacists in the US are excited by these powerful new tools and want to be among the first to bring it to the public.

GeneYouIn has developed a PGx platform called PillCheckTM, an interpretation software for pharmacogenetic results that provides pharmacists with patient-specific insights into an individual’s drug response, helping pharmacists optimize and personalize the medication prescription process.

GYI is offering online educational and hands-on training programs on PGx. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us at info@geneyouin.ca

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