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Call for NHS to adopt genetic testing to improve medicine matching for patients

By April 1, 2022No Comments

The British Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College for Physicians have published a report pushing for pharmacogenomic testing to better tailor patient prescriptions and save money caused by adverse drug reactions.

They claim this testing will ensure patients receive the correct drug and dosage – as prescription drugs work for only 30-50% of the population – while avoiding potentially dangerous side-effects. Currently, 6.5% of UK hospital admissions are attributed to adverse drug interactions, while virtually the entire population possess at least one genetic variation which will alter the effect of certain drugs.

Pharmacogenomic tests are already done on a small scale within the NHS, such as on patients with breast or colon cancer. However, it is hoped that this can be rolled out more generally. For 8% of the population, for instance, codeine will provide no pain relief at all – causing anguish to patients and wastage to the NHS.

Indeed, the financial impact of this issue must not be understated. Adverse drug reactions can cost the NHS up to £2 billion per year, while pharmacogenomic testing works out at £100-150 per person, thus generating long-term savings and mining valuable health data.

Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Liverpool and chair of the report’s working party, Sir Munir Pirmohamed, said: “The ultimate goal is to make pharmacogenomic prescribing a reality for everyone within the NHS, which will empower healthcare professionals to deliver better, more personalised care.

“The aim of pharmacogenomics is to make sure patients get the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time to be able to improve their outcomes, treat their symptoms, cure their disease and prevent side-effects.”

Professor Sir Mark Caulfield, president-elect of the British Pharmacological Society stated that pharmacogenomic testing to determine the origin or side-effects or a lack of response to medication could be rolled out next year, if approved by NHS. Testing would be conducted via a sample of blood or saliva.

Ben Kemp