July 18, 2016 -- The BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) will expand its pharmacogenomics project to cities across Canada this fall, thanks to significant funding from Green Shield Canada (GSC).
The “Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy” project examines the potential for community pharmacies to provide DNA-specific medication advice in order to optimize drug therapy outcomes for patients.
Phase one of the project involved 33 community pharmacists in BC who recruited 200 volunteer patients to provide saliva samples, with funding from BCPhA and Genome BC. Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) finished sequencing the samples in January and will do a retrospective analysis of DNA information to learn how genetics would have altered the drug dosage patients were prescribed.
GSC is the first funding partner to come on board for the second phase, which is estimated to take 18 months and involve 1,000 patients in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax. It will assess participants’ exomes for 160 gene drug variants to find out if these variants are clinically actionable.
“Green Shield Canada is excited to be collaborating with the BCPhA once again,” says David Willows, vice president of strategic market solutions at GSC. “Our previous work led to the first instance of Canadian employers reimbursing pharmacists for health coaching involving cardiovascular patients. This is another opportunity for GSC to support innovative ideas that can potentially enhance employee health and ensure employer benefits spend is targeted and valuable. At a time of rising drug costs, it makes sense to invest in research that can enhance the prescribing process.”
The focus of phase two will be on particular drug categories for mental health, cardiovascular, pain and possibly respiratory (COPD and asthma).
“These type of drugs are most likely to be affected by a patient’s DNA,” says Geraldine Vance, BCPhA’s CEO. “They are also widely used, contribute high costs to public and private payers and have a lot of side effects for patients. It all comes together: high volume, high dollar value and high side effects.”
Vance highlights the importance of using this science to provide reassurance to patients, saying “We want to find out which drugs and in what dosage would work best for an individual.”
BCPhA is still looking for additional contributors for the project.
The second phase will also help determine whether the project is economically viable and if the public would be willing pay for DNA testing. Among the 1,000 patients to be recruited to provide samples, there will be a mix of sponsored patients who will have the cost covered and non-sponsored patients who will pay about $2,000 for the testing and analysis.
Pharmacists will also be compensated for identifying patients, taking information and going through the consent process.
BCPhA is now looking for community pharmacies to participate in the project. In July, Vance will meet with chains and banners to find participating pharmacies in each city.
BCPhA has developed a registration form for patients, health-care professionals and other investors to express interest in participating in the project.
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