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Personalised prescribing: using pharmacogenomics to improve patient outcomes

A new report from the Royal College of Physicians and British Pharmacological Society joint working party considers the opportunities provided by increasing pharmacogenomic testing.

We all vary in our responses to medicines. There can be enormous variation from person to person in whether a medicine works, whether it causes serious side effects and what dose is needed. This variation can be due to many factors, including an individual’s genes. Scientists have established a genetic cause for such variation for over 40 medicines. The study of this area is called pharmacogenomics.

Pharmacogenomic testing can be used to discover which variants of genes an individual carries, and whether they impact on the response to medicines they are given. This information can be used to guide the choice of medicine and dose, increasing the likelihood that each person receives the most effective medicine for them, at the best dose, the first time they are treated.

A new report from the Royal College of Physicians and British Pharmacological Society joint working party considers the opportunities provided by increasing pharmacogenomic testing. It includes a set of recommendations encompassing steps along the pathway to embedding pharmacogenomics in the NHS. It covers understanding the evidence for each test, working with patients and the public to understand their needs and communicate potential benefits of testing, training healthcare professionals to exploit advances in pharmacogenomics, working with leaders to commission testing, and ensuring that it is implemented effectively in practice.

The report has been endorsed by the Association of Cancer Physicians, British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, British Society for Genetic Medicine, British Society for Haematology, British Thoracic Society, Clinical Genetics Society, Genomics England, Royal College of Anaesthetists, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the UK Kidney Association.

The ultimate goal is to make pharmacogenomic-based prescribing a reality for all. This will empower healthcare professionals to deliver better, more personalised care, and in turn improve outcomes for patients and reduce costs to the NHS.

Alongside the main report, a summary for patients and the public is also available to download.