Precision medicine – the next frontier in patient centred care.

May 30/16
Patti Ryan

The DNA of Pharmacy

This past week the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) hosted its annual conference with a focus on the DNA of Pharmacy.  Brilliant speakers such as Dr. Kevin Davies, author of the $1,000 Genome and Dr. Corey Nislow, UBC’s Associate Professor in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, uncovered the future state of pharmacogenomics.

For the 80% of the population who will be prescribed a medication each year, understanding how genes effectively or adversely respond to certain drugs can reduce the risk of adverse drug events. Pharmacogenomics uses a person’s genetics to uncover which drug therapy and dosage works best for them.

There are more than 150 medications – ranging from mental health to heart disease to cancer drugs – that are impacted by a patient’s DNA.  According to Nicholas J. Schork, Director of Human Biology at the J. Craig Venter Institute, “Every day, millions of people are taking medications that will not help them.  The top ten highest-grossing drugs in the United States help between 1 in 25 and 1 in 4 of the people who take them.”

“Personalized Medicine” or “Precision Medicine”, could improve the odds of a medication working effectively for you. How practical is this for the average consumer?  For individuals willing to spend a few hundred dollars, companies such as 23 and me provide a DNA test that can identify a person’s increased risk for 10 pharmacogenomics factors.  Taking control of this information could help you and your healthcare provider manage and treat your condition.

In the US, President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative seeks to identify genetically-based drivers of disease in order to develop new, more effective treatments. Canada is doing exciting work at the University of BC through the Genomics project in partnership with the BCPhA.

While it is early days, for genomic testing, it won’t be long before most of us will have our genetic roadmap available to us.  The future of pharmacy as the gateway to personalized medication in our communities is just around the corner.  We, at Health QR, believe strongly in providing individuals with the tools to better understand and access their health information.

An empowered healthcare consumer  will better understand the risks and opportunities that can be found in DNA.  Community pharmacy will be a critical partner to help consumers translate the information so they can better manage their health.