WBA Magazine

Tailor-made medication, because no two people are the same

A new pilot in the Netherlands brings pharmacy to the forefront of Pharmacogenomics.

By Rachel Heath

DNA strands

Have you ever wondered why two people might experience very different reactions and results to the same healthcare treatment? Or perhaps why a drug is more effective for some people more than others? The answer starts with Pharmacogenomics (PGx), the study of how DNA may affect an individual’s metabolic response to certain medications.

Because your DNA can affect how your body responds to medicines, a Pharmacogenomics test is meant to unlock your genetic code and allow healthcare professionals to have a better understanding of what healthcare interventions and medicines are right for you. It can also help you know when and what dosage to take them. What’s more, Pharmacogenomics may help to minimize trial and error in the prescribing process, reduce potential healthcare costs and decrease the likelihood of adverse drug reactions.

In September 2019, Alliance Healthcare Netherlands embarked on a pilot with OneOme, offering Pharmacogenomic testing in 59 of its Boots and Alphega Pharmacies. OneOne’s RightMed® Test analyzes 27 genes to provide valuable information doctors and pharmacists can use to optimize prescribing or medication management. Findings from the pilot demonstrate the power of these tests, indicating that 18% of customers tested should avoid certain medications (based on their current medicine use), and 14% have had medicine dosage adjusted following their PGx results.

Anyone can have a PGx test, even if they’re on existing medication, and taking DNA is easy. An Alphega or Boots healthcare professional will use a cotton swab to take a sample of cheek mucosa from the patient. This is then sent to a specialized laboratory that isolates DNA from the sample to identify and analyse what enzymes from the DNA are responsible for the conversion of drugs. The pharmacy receives the results of the test which are then shared with the patient and their doctor to determine whether an adjustment of the medication could be made.

Following the success of the pilot, Alliance Healthcare Netherlands extended the PGx service in November to its employees and so far, over 60 tests have been taken. In addition, it’s the ambition to offer the PGx-test in all 207 pharmacies of Boots and Alphega in the course of 2021.

As the future of pharmacy shifts towards personalized medicine and added value services, PGx testing is a great example of the pivotal role pharmacists play as part of national health systems, and the value and care a pharmacist can give to their patients.