The science of pharmacogenomics (PGx) studies how genetic variability affects an individual’s response to a drug. Most patients metabolize a medication as expected. But some eliminate it from the body before it can do its work, while others process it slowly, causing it to build up in the body and risk an overdose.
Researchers in the U-PGx project are investigating how PGx could help doctors and pharmacists better treat patients. Advance knowledge of how an individual is likely to process a given drug could ensure that doctors can choose safe, effective therapy without trial and error.
The project has developed an electronic support system for choosing treatment based on a patient’s pharmacogenomic profile. Prescribers would match medication and dose to the patient’s genotype, with a warning given if a drug is ordered for a patient at risk of a dangerous reaction.
The first steps towards testing this system in real life were taken in U-PGx’s clinical study PREPARE (Preemptive Pharmacogenomic Testing for Preventing Adverse Drug Reactions). Around 8 000 patients are being tested for genetic markers that could indicate how they react to more than 40 commonly prescribed drugs. Half the group are prescribed the drug they need using their genetic data, with the other half prescribed drugs using a standard-of-care approach, i.e. without taking genetic data into account.
Results will show whether pharmacogenomic testing impacts therapy outcomes and is feasible and cost-effective on a large scale. Seven clinical centres from across Europe are taking part, helping to ensure that results are representative of Europe as a whole.
U-PGx researchers will also use the study’s results to draw up proposals for an EU-wide strategy on the clinical use of PGx. In parallel, the researchers are raising awareness of its potential among patients, health-care professionals, regulators and other stakeholders.