Pharmacists must be central to the pharmacogenomics revolution

We've issued a position statement calling for pharmacists to play a leading role in the fast-approaching pharmacogenomics revolution which is set to transform prescribing and patient outcomes. We also want to see an expansion of the NHS genomic testing programme to speed up patient access to the benefits that personalised medicine brings.

Pharmacogenomics uses an individual’s genetic information to determine how well that person will respond to a medicine. This information can be used to predict if a medicine will be effective or not for them, and if they are likely to experience side-effects from it. This enables a personalised approach to prescribing, where the individual receives the medicine that is right for them, at the right dose, the first time it is prescribed, rather than the current ‘one size fits all’ approach to medicines.

Pharmacists have a key role to play in advancing the pharmacogenomics revolution by using genomic testing to optimise the use of medicines in patients. Pharmacists working in specialist services such as cancer care are already doing this, for example testing for variants in the DPYD gene to see if patients can be safely prescribed 5-fluorouracil, a type of chemotherapy used to treat a range of cancers, so enabling changes of dose or treatment to avoid severe or fatal toxicity from the drug.

There are over 40 medicines currently identified where genetic variations may potentially impact how they affect individuals, many of them everyday treatments such as painkillers and antidepressants.

RPS lead for pharmacogenomics, Sophie Harding, said: “Pharmacists have the pharmacological understanding to optimise the use of genetic test results for better patient care. They also have the skills to provide individualised doses and ongoing monitoring of how well the medicines are working through their clinical knowledge and patient counselling skills.”

In order to maximise patient benefits and benefits for the NHS the RPS is calling for:

  • Fully resourced genomics education and training to be provided at all stages of pharmacy education related to their professional role
  • Integration of genomics information into electronic health records accessible to all healthcare professionals involved in patient care
  • Development of tools and guidance integrated into IT systems to support clinical decision making with access across different healthcare sectors by all members of the wider multi-disciplinary team
  • Research opportunities are needed for pharmacists to enable continual improvement in the service delivery to maximise patient benefit
  • A nationwide public health awareness and engagement campaign to raise patient and public awareness and confidence in pharmacogenomics

RPS Director for England Ravi Sharma said: “The professional leadership of pharmacists and pharmacy teams is vital to the delivery of a successful pharmacogenomics programme across the health service.

“The benefits of pharmacogenomics are huge to the individual, but also to the NHS in terms of greater efficiency, fewer wasted medicines, reduced hospital admissions due to adverse drug reactions and better use of clinicians’ time to improve patient responses to medicines.

“The new era of personalised medicine is fast approaching and we must ensure we are fully prepared to maximise the benefits for patients and the NHS.”

Read our position statement on the role of pharmacy in pharmacogenomics.


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