The National Health Service (NHS) of England is set to launch a pilot programme this month (June 2023), which aims to test the application of pharmacogenomics in medication prescription.

Pharmacogenomics, a rapidly growing branch of molecular genetics, has the potential to greatly impact therapeutics. The pilot programme aims to ensure that patients starting new statin medications, certain antidepressants or PPIs, or undergoing medication changes receive the appropriate drugs. The programme also aims to minimize the risk of potential side effects for these patients.

According to Pharmacy Times, more than 90% of individuals have genetic variations that can influence their response to medications. This statistic underscores the need for implementing pharmacogenomics (PGx) testing in clinical settings. Several studies have highlighted the advantages of incorporating individual genetic factors to enhance treatment plans across the entire care process. Patients, payers, healthcare systems, and providers can all benefit significantly. These benefits include experiencing fewer adverse reactions, improved patient safety, reduced treatment costs, enhanced medication adherence, and shorter therapy durations.

Earlier this year, a study published in The Lancet examined the use of a 12-gene pharmacogenetic panel across seven European countries. The study sought to evaluate the effectiveness and applicability of this panel in those countries. The study investigated whether a gene-drug interaction-guided prescribing strategy could prevent adverse reactions. The sample of 6944 patients confirmed that pharmacogenetics-guided drug prescribing could reduce the occurrence of clinically relevant adverse drug reactions by 30%. Moreover, the study underscored the advantages of implementing a standardized pharmacogenetic-test system. This system would help facilitate informed decision-making at the point of care.

Long-term goals for pharmacogenomics

The University of Manchester is pioneering the introduction of genetic testing prior to prescribing in primary care. The pilot programme, which initially faced delays with ethics approval will involve four general practice (GP) surgeries in the northwest of England. The University plans to expand the pilot to early adopter GP practices in the other six Genomic Medicine Service Alliance regions in England if successful. The long-term goal is to establish a national programme within a year, as reported by The Pharmaceutical Journal in October 2022.

Pharmacogenomics, also referred to as pharmacogenetics, is a field of research that examines how an individual’s genes influence their response to medications. The ultimate objective is to assist doctors in selecting the most suitable drugs and doses for each person.