According to an international study led by Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), serious side effects of drugs decrease by 30 percent if the dosage is tailored to patients’ dna. According to the researchers, this is the first time that prescribing based on a dna profile has been shown to be effective.
“The evidence is there, this is really a breakthrough,” said Professor of Clinical Pharmacy Henk-Jan Guchelaar, one of the authors of the study. Nearly 7,000 people from seven European countries participated. The drugs used were for the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease and psychological symptoms, among others.
A drug can elicit different reactions in different patients. That’s in large part because everyone has different dna. As a result, some people break down drugs more slowly, for example, so they need a lower dose, thus avoiding the risk of side effects.
The study participants were all given a dna-medication pass matched to their own dna profile. By scanning that pass, doctors and pharmacists could determine exactly what medication dose was optimal for each patient. Not only did the subjects experience fewer side effects, they were also very pleased with the pass itself. It gave them a sense of direction, the researchers say, because they were actively involved in their own treatment.
In this video (Dutch), an LUMC professor explains how the pass works.
In addition to the dna profile, there are several factors that affect how a person responds to a drug. For example, men and women sometimes respond differently, or ethnicity plays a role. Using the medication pass, medication can be optimized for everyone, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
More effective treatment, by the way, need not be limited to side effects. “Use of the dna profile can also lead to a drug working better,” Guchelaar says.
Few hundred euros
Personalizing medication is part of a broader development in health care, also called precision medicine. Not only dna but also, for example, the composition of bacteria in the intestines and risk factors for cardiovascular disease mean that everyone needs a specific treatment. This may involve medication, but also adapted nutrition or therapies.
If it were up to Guchelaar, everyone would get such a dna-medication pass. “Such a pass costs 300 to 600 euros, and it only has to be done once. An average 40-year-old will benefit from it within a few years.” He would therefore like to see the dna of every patient who comes to the pharmacy mapped. “Only in this way can we make treatment more effective and safer for each patient.”