Pharmacogenomics

Adverse drug reactions can lead to repeated GP visits, unnecessary hospital admissions and, in the worse cases, even death. With the global health crisis caused by the Coronavirus (Covid-19), it is more important than ever to keep hospital beds free for those who really need them and to prevent people from making unnecessary trips to their GP.


Impact of adverse drug reactions

According to Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of Pharmacogenetics UK, who gave a talk to The Royal College of Physicians on behalf of Myogenes, the NHS spends £1.6 billion a year treating people who respond badly to prescribed drugs.

The problems can be caused by incorrect medication being prescribed, incorrect dosage or drug to drug interactions. As well as being costly, giving patients the wrong drugs can leave them at risk of serious side-effects or even death. At best, they may experience ongoing symptoms from conditions that are failing to respond to treatment.

So, can anything be done to reduce the burden of adverse drug reactions on the NHS?


Benefits of pharmacogenomics

The answer is genetic testing, which uses a simple saliva test to determine whether the medication a doctor is intending to prescribe is the best one for their patient. Such an approach is called pharmacogenomics and it is a branch of personalised medicine, which involves tailoring medical treatment to the precise needs and preferences of a patient.

The potential impact of pharmacogenomics is huge.

According to statistics, 50% of people with arthritis and 40% of people with asthma will fail to respond to initial treatment. By studying a patient’s genetic makeup, pharmacogenomics can predict which medication will be most effective, what dosage will be optimum and whether they are likely to develop serious side-effects from a particular medication.

Rather than the current one-size-fits-all approach, which relies on trial and error to determine the correct medication and dosage, genetic testing enables the doctor to pinpoint precisely the right treatment plan for individual patients.

By reducing adverse drug reactions, it could be possible to make a significant difference to the NHS at a time when it is facing unprecedented demand due to Coronavirus.


Potential impact of coronavirus

As the global death toll from coronavirus surpasses 6,600*, there are now over 1500** cases in the UK, with confirmed cases in every region, and 55 deaths (as at 17 March). Current predictions suggest that routine appointments in GP surgeries may have to stop to enable doctors to meet the growing demand for treatment.

The British Medical Association said that routine monitoring of long-term health conditions might also have to halt for the same reason.

We don’t yet know what the future holds for Coronavirus and Covid-19. However, it makes sense to take whatever precautionary measures possible and to reduce any unnecessary demand on the NHS.

Genetic testing is quick and accurate and can be used for anyone, regardless of age, who may be about to receive prescribed medication. It is particularly helpful when:

  • there is more than one drug to choose from
  • when there are serious potential side-effects
  • when the starting dose is unclear
  • or when patients are taking more than one drug.

For more information about our Pharmacogenomics genetic tests, please contact the team to see how you can help your patients, not only with their health but also help the medical system to be able to focus their attention where it is most urgently needed.

*World Health Organisation 

**Data from Public Health England at 12:42 UTC 17 Mar 2020


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