Okanagan pharmacies participate in genomics project

One-of-a-kind research project on science of pharmacogenomics involved two drug stores in West Kelowna and one in Kelowna.

  • Jan. 27, 2016 9:00 a.m.

Three Central Okanagan pharmacies have taken part in North America’s first research project that ultimately aims to bring the science of pharmacogenomics to patients using their community pharmacy.

Pharmacogenomics uses a person’s genetics to uncover which drugs and in what dosage work best for them.

The project, called “Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy,” was funded by the BC Pharmacy Association (BCPhA) and Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) with research being done by a team at the UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Across the province,  33 community pharmacies recruited 200 volunteer patients to be part of the project. The project set out to position the pharmacist as the health-care provider through which patient genetic information can be acquired, assessed and used to guide drug therapy decisions. Until now, this work had been done almost exclusively in cancer agencies or research labs.

“I think we’ve always known that this is where the future of pharmacy is headed— helping patients know which medication works for them and in what dosage before they start,” said Cameron Bonell, pharmacist at Lakeside Medicine Centre Pharmacy in Kelowna. “I was excited to be part of this project that ultimately will help patients with their everyday medications.”

The project focused on developing robust standard operating procedures for the collection of patient saliva samples, processing and sequencing of DNA at UBC and the development of educational tools used by pharmacists for patient awareness.

Community pharmacists finished collecting all 200 saliva samples in late 2015, and UBC researchers finished sequencing samples on January 22. UBC researchers will do a retrospective analysis of DNA information to learn how genetics would have altered the drug dosage patients were prescribed.

“One of the most immediate opportunities for genomics in health care is to guide treatment decisions and reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions. This project is tackling just that by enabling pharmacists the insights needed to match the right medication, at the right dose, to the right patient,” said Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, vice-president, sectors and Chief Scientific Officer, Genome BC. “This work reflects Genome BC’s ambition to translate the value of genomics to end-users in BC and beyond.”

In recent years, pharmacogenomics, or using a person’s genetics to tailor their drug treatment, has only been used to treat cancer or rare diseases. However, there are more than 150 medications,  ranging from mental health to heart disease to cancer drugs,  that are impacted by a patient’s DNA.

“We showed that pharmacy can be the gateway to personalized medication in our communities,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BC Pharmacy Association. “Regardless of the location—urban or rural—patients had a consistent, quality experience with their community pharmacist as it relates to pharmacogenomics.”

Along with Lakeside Medicine Centre Pharmacy, Andreen’s Medicine Centre in West Kelowna and Remedy’s Rx in Kelowna participated in the project. Other pharmacies that participated in the project were located in Armstrong, Burnaby, Courtenay, Chetwynd, Cranbrook, Enderby, Fort St. John, Hope, Houston, Kamloops, Keremeos, Penticton, Port Coquitlam, Port McNeill, Prince George, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Williams Lake.

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