B.C. pharmacies take part in genomics project

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Effort aims to bring personalized medicine to patients via pharmacists

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Twenty-two pharmacies in rural and urban locations across British Columbia are participating in a research project to examine how DNA impacts medication selection and dosage.

The British Columbia Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) said Thursday that the “Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy” project is the first of its kind in North America. The initiative, funded by BCPhA and Genome BC, aims to help bring personalized medicine to patients via community pharmacists. The research is being done by a team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) faculty of pharmaceutical sciences.

In the project, community pharmacists will collect saliva samples to test how an individual’s DNA can affect the choice and dose of medication. Plans call for the project to develop standard operating procedures for the collection of patient saliva samples by community pharmacists, as well as procedures for the processing and sequencing of the DNA in the samples by UBC researchers.

Across British Columbia, the 22 pharmacies will recruit 200 volunteer patients, who are currently taking the anticoagulation drug warfarin, to be part of the study. Researchers will do a retrospective analysis of DNA information to learn how genetics would have altered the drug dosage patients were prescribed.

The participating pharmacies are in Burnaby, Courtenay, Cranbrook, Enderby, Fort St John, Hope, Houston, Kamloops, Kelowna, Penticton, Port Coquitlam, Port McNeill, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Williams Lake.

“Pharmacists, who are experts in medication, are the health care practitioners best-positioned to collect and use patient genetic information to help make medication selection and dosing decisions,” BCPhA chief executive officer Geraldine Vance said in a statement. “Over time, the aim is to use DNA to make decisions about the most commonly prescribed medications, making personalized medicine accessible for all patients in the province.”

British Columbia has more than 1,200 community pharmacies, meaning that any of the province’s residents could ultimately have access to such testing, regardless of where they live.

“With the modern genome technology used in this project, the idea of personalized medicine can become a reality,” commented UBC lead researcher Dr. Corey Nislow. “We know there are more than 150 medications that are impacted by an individual’s DNA. This project is about using that genetic information to make decisions about which medications are right for a patient — the right drug, in the right dosage at the right time.”


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