Personalized Medicine and The Pharmacist

Personalized Medicine: A SWOT analysis

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Pharmacogenetics is the study of how a person’s genetics will influence their response to a drug. Polymorphs in a person’s genes may cause differences in efficacy, risk of toxicity or risk of side effects with drug therapy between patients. Pharmacogenetic testing involves testing a person’s genes for specific polymorphs and tailoring their drug therapy to their specific characteristics. Using the SWOT analysis tool we will look at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of pharmacists leading the way in the future of the emerging field of pharmacogenetics.

Pharmacists have a variety of strengths that would make them useful in the implementation of personalized medicine, another name for pharmacogenomics. Pharmacists are often called the most accessible healthcare providers, as any patient can walk in to speak with a pharmacist. Pharmacists therefore are able to develop relationships with the patients and establish trust. If pharmacists were to be involved in pharmacogenomics, this would allow the patients to see us take on a more clinical role and therefore improve the patient’s views of the role of the pharmacist. This also will help to extend and improve upon the relationship between the pharmacist and the patient through more through and insightful interactions. Additionally, through Pharmanet the pharmacists already have access to the patient’s medication history allowing us to give unique insight and details on the patients past drug therapies.  Pharmacists are known among other health-care providers as the drug experts. Pharmacists are trained to have an extensive knowledge of drugs and pharmacologic therapies. This strength makes the pharmacist a very useful player for the implementation of pharmacogenomics. The information we could provide to a team of healthcare professionals could be helpful in gathering information to make therapeutic decisions for the patient.

Despite such strengths we already possess, pharmacists also have weaknesses that must be addressed before these strengths can be utilized effectively. First, it is our weakness that pharmacists, as a group, do not possess a strong bargaining power in the government compared to other health care professionals such as physicians or nurses. This bargaining power is of critical importance in emerging field of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine because pharmacists and the government must negotiate to establish a solid reimbursement method. At the moment, pharmacists are not reimbursed properly for a variety of services they offer such as over-the-counter medication counselling services. This is primarily due to not having an established reimbursement method. Pharmacists must take initiative to build this foundation in the field of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine so that their work will be fully appreciated monetarily by the government.

In addition to our lack of strong bargaining power, pharmacy schools currently do not offer adequate training to pharmacy students or licensed pharmacists to work in field of pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine. Such lack of knowledge and skills must be addressed as soon as possible. Otherwise, we will face threats from other professionals or graduates from other faculties for our place in personalized medicine. We must prepare ourselves for the future and be proactive so that not only us, but also the general public will find us useful and relevant in the health care system.

There are many opportunities for pharmacists to be involved in pharmacogenomics. With the aging population of the baby boomers comes an increased demand for medical services and provides an opportunity for pharmacogenomics to become part of the health care system As the new regulated technicians start to practice in the community, pharmacists are constantly on the lookout to expand their scope of practice to a more clinical role. Pharmacists should take advantage of this new technology that is quickly developing before another profession does. Pharmacists are perfectly positioned to perform pharmacogenetic counseling sessions with patients. They are already sitting down with patients to do medication reviews in community and hospital pharmacies therefore pharmacogenomics counseling could be fit into those sessions. During medication management counseling sessions, pharmacists are already reviewing a patient’s full medication history therefore it seems natural to explain how their genetic makeup may influence their drug therapy. Pharmacogenetic counseling sessions have already been tested in a couple of hospitals therefore the protocol must simply be expanded into other hospitals and potentially extended into the community. Community pharmacist can receive lab tests online and meet with the patient in the community for a review of the results.

Pharmacist face and will face a variety of threats in the field of personalized medicine. As mentioned in weakness section, other graduates or professionals with background in biochemistry, genetics and bioinformatics could easily adapt their knowledge and skills to expand their scope of practice. In fact, they already have more extensive knowledge than pharmacist in such topics as genetics. If they take additional training about medications, they can easily replace us in the field of personalized medicine.

Another threat we can predict is the cost of the personalized medicine. This field is currently expensive. Having a pharmacist to analyse the data will only add to this already high cost. Therefore, we must find out way to work efficiently and find a cost-saving measure. Otherwise, the public and the government will not invest in the field of personalized medicine. Another solution to this potential threat is to prove that our work is unique and valuable to patients and to the health care system. We must prove that our work is actually cost-saving at the end of the day by, for example, reducing and/or preventing side effects. Unless we prove ourselves to be useful amongst these threats, we will not be able to exploit all the opportunities that we are given.

In conclusion there are many considerations that must be taken into account when assessing the pharmacist’s role within the realm of personalized medicine. We are educated to be the drug care experts, so it seems natural that we will be involved in personalized medicine. As the field of pharmacogenomics begins to expand, pharmacists will need to work with other healthcare providers to continue putting patient care above all. This blog post looked at the ways pharmacists will be able to help with personalized medicine, and the hurdles we would have overcome to provide optimal patient care in this field.

Jessica Beach, In Whang , Stacey Tkachuk, Jason Tan, Ryan Teo, Agnes Wu, Michelle Shih

Written by jebeach

February 1st, 2012 at 8:02 pm

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