Genetic screening could improve prescriptions for 4 million patients

Posted: 26th February 2021

Scientists have established that 1 in every 10 patients could benefit from genetic testing before being prescribed medicine. The researchers have calculated that the widespread use of genetic tests could make treatments safer, and more effective for up to 4 million UK patients.

Scientists estimate that 95% of us carry a genetic variation that could affect how we respond to a common prescription medicine. In such cases where negative drug-gene interactions are known, medical professionals may recommend higher or lower doses, more frequent monitoring or the prescription of alternatives.

In most of us, these genetic variations remain hidden, but a low-cost test called Pharmacogenetics (PGx) that uses our DNA can identify any potentially negative interactions. In the paper, published in the British Pharmacological Society Journals, researchers studied UK NHS dispensing data for 56 common medicines, including antibiotics, antidepressants and painkillers where there are documented drug-gene interactions. They found that in 20% of cases, medical professionals could recommend PGx screening, according to current guidelines.

Analysing the results, researchers found that if PGx was performed before prescribing drugs where a drug-gene interaction is known, it would result in a change of drug dose or the prescription of an alternative in 9.1% of cases.

The researchers believe that up to 4 million patients every year could benefit from safer and more effective prescriptions if PGx was adopted by the NHS. Over 5 million prescriptions could be improved every year.

“Better selection of medicines based on a patient’s genetic information could mean less side-effects and better treatment outcomes” said Essra Youssef, a research pharmacist at the University of East Anglia’s School of Pharmacy and co-author of the peer-reviewed paper. “This not only benefits the patient but also the NHS, as patients may not need to return to their GP so often to change their medication.”

The PGx testing process is simple, with patients asked to provide a DNA swab which is then analysed to identify any genes related to medicines. The researchers believe the technique could provide significant benefits to the NHS in improving patient treatments and outcomes. “As the cost of this testing continues to drop, the technology is more likely to represent good value for the NHS,” said Youssef.

PGx testing represents a new development in personalised medicine, that uses a patient’s genetic information, including DNA, to identify suitable treatments. At Biocentaur, we offer a range of genetic tests that can assess how your body will respond to treatment. Our SNPs test uses an advanced molecular biology technique called quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), to provide you with a personalised profile of how you will respond to specific drugs and treatments, including anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and anticoagulants.

Read more about our range of personalised tests that can help you make better, more informed decisions about your treatment here.

You can read the full paper, Estimating the potential impact of implementing preemptive pharmacogenetic testing in primary care across the UK, here.