Research project aims to bring personalized medicine to British Columbia patients through community pharmacists



VANCOUVER — Twenty-two pharmacies in rural and urban locations across British Columbia have been selected to participate in a research project that aims to help bring personalized medicine to patients through community pharmacists.

The "Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy" project is the first of its kind in North America. It is funded by the BC Pharmacy Association and Genome BC, with research done by a team at the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The research project focuses on using community pharmacists to collect saliva samples to test how an individual's DNA can impact medication selection and dosage. The project will 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 these samples by UBC researchers.

Across the province, 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.

Pharmacy locations include 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," stated Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. "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."

There are more than 1,200 community pharmacies across the province, meaning any British Columbian could ultimately have access to this testing regardless of where they live.

"With the modern genome technology used in this project, the idea of personalized medicine can become a reality," stated UBC lead researcher 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."

The British Columbia Pharmacy Association is a not-for-profit professional association that represents more than 3,000 pharmacists and more than 850 pharmacies throughout British Columbia.


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