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Role for community pharmacy in gene testing says Boots

Community pharmacists could play an important role in testing patients to see whether they are genetically predisposed to adverse effects from certain drugs, Boots has said.

The multiple took part in new research alongside the Universities of East Anglia, Leiden and Nottingham exploring the potential benefit of pre-emptive pharmacogenetic screening for 56 medicines where there are known drug-gene interactions, including antidepressants, antibiotics and painkillers.

Analysing NHS dispensing data, the researchers estimated that a fifth of the time (21.1 per cent) these medicines were prescribed, there was potential for a doctor or pharmacist to take action under international guidelines. And 

Pre-prescribing pharmacogenetic testing services are currently available in the Netherlands and are carried out by GPd and pharmacists to aid more effective prescribing, the researchers note.

Boots UK chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said: “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 programme as part of their plans to embed pharmacogenomics in clinical practice by 2025, and that this testing could be effectively delivered by community pharmacists.

“Last year, around four million people could have had a change in their prescribing according to our figures. This would have reduced their risk of side effect and could have led to better clinical outcomes.”

Essra Youssef from UEA’s school of pharmacy commented: “We know over 95 per cent of the population carry a genetic marker that predicts an atypical response to art 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. The most common of these are weak opioids, antidepressants and proton pump inhibitors.

“We wanted to see how pharmacogenetic testing before being prescribed common medicines could benefit patients.

“We found that around four million patients annually in the UK could benefit from having this new technology.

“Better selection of medicines based on a patient’s genetic information could mean less side effects and better treatment outcomes. This not only benefits the patient but also the NHS, as patients may not need to return to their GP so often to change their medication.

“It could also reduce hospital visits related to side effects of medicines. The testing process is quite simple in most cases, with a cheek swab sample collected and DNA analysed 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.”

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