Genetic Screening Before Prescribing Could Benefit Millions

Four million UK patients could benefit annually from genetic testing before being prescribed common medicines, according to new research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in collaboration with Boots UK and Leiden University (Netherlands). The research results were published online on January 19, 2021 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. The open-access article is titled “'Estimating the Potential Impact of Implementing Pre-Emptive Pharmacogenetic Testing in Primary Care Across The UK.” Researchers looked through 2019 National Health Service (NHS) dispensing data across the UK to see how many patients are started on new prescriptions each year that could be potentially optimized by genetic testing. The scientists studied 56 medicines, including antidepressants, antibiotics, stomach ulcer treatments, and painkillers where there are known drug-gene interactions. And they found that in more than one in five occasions (21.1%) there was the potential for a doctor or pharmacist to take action under international pharmacogenetic guidelines. If this screening was applied to all new prescriptions, an estimated one in 11 (9.1%) would lead to a change of drug or dose, affecting over five million dispensed items. Depending on the results of individual pharmacogenetic tests, patients might receive either a higher or lower starting dose than normal or be more closely monitored during the early stages of treatment. Pharmacogenomic testing services already working in the Netherlands show that specially-trained general practitioners and pharmacists can carry out pre-prescribing tests and use the results to give advice on safer and more effective prescribing, delivering better patient outcomes.
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