This Week Designated Healthcare Professionals Genomics Education Week by NIH – with June 7 Earmarked to Highlight Pharmacogenomics (PGx) Testing
It’s such a simple solution to a decades-long problem.
A patient is prescribed a medication by their doctor. The medicine doesn’t work as expected, or worse, the medication brings about harmful side effects that in some cases may be life-threatening.
“Doctors can use PGx testing to identify – in advance – medications that may not be a good fit for a patient.”
Yet, Pharmacogenomics, or PGx, a DNA-based genetics test, has been available for years. Doctors can use PGx testing to identify- in advance – medications that may not be a good fit for a patient avoiding the need for trial-and-error prescribing.
This week GENETWORx is shining a light on PGx testing, utilizing GENETWORx experts, recent studies, and a legislative movement to make the PGx test report a standard part of every patient’s health record.
According to The Right Drug Dose Now Act introduced in Congress in February 2022, as well as GENETWORx’s own clients, and recent studies, PGx tests save time, money, and in some cases, lives.
The issue is important enough that this week was designated Healthcare Professionals Genomics Education Week by the National Human Genome Research Institute – an arm of the National Institutes of Health. June 7 was earmarked as Pharmacogenomics Day to further spread the word about how pharmacogenetic testing can assist doctors in treating their patients.
A one-time cheek swab for a GENETWORx pharmacogenetic test provides data on an individual’s genetic sequence, specifically flagging genes that may present potentially harmful drug or dosing concerns. The data in the PGx report is good for a patient’s lifetime, according to GENETWORx experts.
“In practice, there are times when you have two patients with similar profiles who are prescribed the same medications,” said Stacey Blankenship, PharmD, GENETWORx Pharmacist. “Then, you find one of them is experiencing side effects while the other says they are getting no relief from the treatment. A PGx test can tell you why this is the case.”
As the Mayo Clinic has stated, “personalized medicine holds the promise that treatments will one day be tailored to your genetic makeup. Calling the practice of implementing pharmacogenomics into a patient’s treatment plan “precision medicine,” Mayo says all medical decisions can be tailored specifically to each patient “in every way possible.”
GENETWORx has been performing pharmacogenomics testing for nearly eight years. Last month the company held a panel discussion for medical professionals on the benefits of PGx and how it works. A video of this panel discussion and more info on pharmacogenetics testing can be found here.
Adverse Effects of Mis-Prescribed Medications
The American Psychological Association (APA) found that billions of dollars are spent each year on psychotropic drugs as tools in treating many mental health disorders. The APA also stated, “But inappropriate prescribing can cause serious harm.”
According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), medication prescribing errors are an ongoing problem with patients who have mental health conditions, a community that is “uniquely vulnerable” to medication errors.
Any medication can cause an adverse effect if prescribed incorrectly or if prescribed without knowledge of its potential negative interference with other drugs, according to Marianne Heeringa, of GENETWORx, who is a Registered Nurse with substantial experience working with PGx.
“Adverse drug events send more than four million Americans to a physician’s office or emergency room each year,” said Heeringa. “Improper prescribing leads to increased healthcare costs, reduced patient safety and an overall poorer quality of life.”
“A PGx genetics test can remove those barriers to treatment with appropriate medication based on an individual’s DNA and chart a clear course to wellness,” she said.
A Reversal in Our Approach to Personalized Health Care
“Once upon a time, studies into therapies and treatments would take a more universal approach, examining a certain segment of the population and assuming everyone in that demographic would react the same,” said Matt Beckman PhD, Director of Laboratory Services at GENETWORx.
“Pharmacogenomics is a complete reversal in thinking from what had always been done before,” he said. “An individual’s personalized health using their genetics is the key component to all of this, to everything we’re doing.”
A former professor, Dr. Beckman used to tell his students long ago that one day individualized health would become the new standard in developing new therapies and solving health dilemmas.
“PGx is that realization,” he said. “It’s that first, critical step to achieving true personalized health care for all.”
Studies Are Quickly Finding Benefits of PGx Genetics Testing
A recent case study by the Teachers Retirement System of the State of Kentucky utilizing PGx testing on more than 30,000 enrollees resulted in a $37 million reduction in direct medical charges. By marrying pharmacogenomics with each participant’s medication treatment plan, the savings per person was found to be a robust $5,000 to $7,000 over a 32-month time period.
The case study found that 23,000 of the 33,000 members who participated in the study needed to stop or change at least one medication after reviewing the results of their genetic test. After the study, 64% of those enrolled in the program changed their medication plans.
The rapidly evolving field of genomics testing continues to help patients and practitioners alike. Pharmacists, doctors, and many who have a PGx report in their medical record are marveling at its usefulness and precision. See GENETWORx panel discussion video here and visit GENETWORx website. Special info and training for psychiatrists, please call 855-969-8845.
“My PGx test saved my life,” Heeringa said. “I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t have it.”
Located in Glen Allen, Va., GENETWORx is a fully integrated CAP accredited laboratory which is certified by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) for high complexity molecular testing. The company is a full molecular and clinical diagnostics laboratory with an expansive test menu, including infectious disease, including COVID-19 testing, and genetic testing. GENETWORx provides a full range of pathogen testing to healthcare facilities nationwide.