Recent research from England’s University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with Boots UK and the Netherlands’ Leiden University shows that nearly four million UK patients could benefit per year from genetic testing before being prescribed common medicines.
For the study researchers examined the National Health Service’s (NHS) dispensing data across the UK to check the number of patients who started on new prescriptions annually that could be potentially improved by genetic testing.
The researchers studied 56 medicines, including antidepressants, antibiotics, stomach ulcer treatments and painkillers which are known to have drug-gene interactions. And they found that over one in five occasions (21.1 percent) a doctor or pharmacist could take action under international pharmacogenetic guidelines.
If the pharmacogenetic testing was applied to all new prescriptions, as per the study about one in 11 (9.1 percent) would lead to a change of drug or dose, affecting over five million dispensed items. Based on the results of the tests, they might either get a higher or lower starting dose than in normal or be more closely monitored in the early stages of treatment.
The pharmacogenomic testing services which are already being practiced in the Netherlands show that specially-trained general physicians and pharmacists can carry out pre-prescribing tests and use the results to prescribe more effectively and to deliver better patient outcomes.
“We strongly believe that pharmacy has a key role to play supporting the wider accessibility and use of pharmacogenomics. Our work shows the benefits that patients and the NHS could get from rolling out a national screening program as part of their plans to embed pharmacogenomics in clinical practice by 2025, and that this testing could be effectively delivered by community pharmacists.”
Essra Youssef, a research pharmacist at UEA’s School of Pharmacy, states that, “We know over 95 percent of the population carry a genetic marker that predicts an atypical response to at least one medicine. Our study looked at nine of these genetic markers, affecting 56 medicines that are commonly dispensed by community pharmacies in the UK.”
If medicines are prescribed based on a patient’s genetic information it could help to reduce side-effects and improve treatment outcomes. Such a treatment method not only benefits the patient but also the NHS, as patients may not need to return to their general physician so often to change their medication.
The testing process in most cases is simple, as it requires only a cheek-swab sample collected and DNA analyzed for genes related to medicines. As the cost of this testing continues to drop, the technology is more likely to represent good value for the NHS.