Pharmacists have long been touted as the medication experts, but to maintain that title they will need to expand their knowledge of pharmacogenomics, and they need to do so quickly.
“We need them to take leadership and ownership in this space now rather than later because it’s harder to try to get something back than it is to start showing interest and potential early on,” says Amina Abubakar, PharmD, AAHIVP, owner of Rx Clinic Pharmacy in Charlotte, NC.
Each year, the field of pharmacogenomics, which is also known as pharmacogenetics and explores how genetics affect patient response to medications, evolves. FDA data show that more than 260 therapeutic agents now have information on how genes affect them in their drug labeling. That number continues to grow as new research emerges. Information obtained from pharmacogenomics can reveal how medication dosing might need to be altered for a patient, or how certain medications might lead to an adverse reaction.
“The science advances in the field are just making it more critical that pharmacists have a really strong understanding of how to blend this into their training,” says Kathleen Jaeger, senior vice president of Pharmacy Care and Patient Advocacy for the NACDS.
While the emerging field requires pharmacists to add to their knowledge base, it also presents an important opportunity to enhance their role as a member of the care team.
“In my opinion, they should be the people that own pharmacogenetics,” says Daniel Dowd, PharmD, vice president of medical affairs at Genomind, a personalized medicine platform that offers a genetic test to guide treatment for a range of psychiatric conditions. “It’s a relatively new field, and who better than pharmacists to optimize drug therapy?”
Community pharmacies, including chain and independents, have already begun offering point-of-care pharmacogenomic services, including taking buccal swabs and sending them to a lab for genetic testing, counseling patients on the results, and working with physicians to develop optimal care plans for individual patients.
Here’s more on how pharmacists are stepping into this field, and how their actions are benefiting patients—and their bottom line.
DNA and the Neighborhood Pharmacy
This spring, Albertsons announced a pilot program with Genomind to bring genetic testing and counseling to 21 of its Sav-On pharmacies in Boise, ID; five of its Jewel-Osco pharmacies in the Chicago area; and two Sav-On pharmacies at Acmes in the Philadelphia area.
The pharmacies will use the genetic test designed by Genomind to optimize treatment for patients who have had unsuccessful experiences with medication for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or other mental illnesses.
Genomind’s specialty in mental health dovetails with Albertsons’ focus on mental health in its company specialty care pharmacy.
“We are already seeing some of these patients in our stores to administer long-acting injectables and so we are able to coordinate that in with this,” says Kimberly Hecht, PharmD, who works in patient care and specialty services/new service development for Albertsons.
According to Hecht, patients can either request the screening on their own, be referred by a physician, or receive a recommendation from a pharmacist.
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