Personalized Medicine and The Pharmacist

The Path to Personalized Medicine

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Several barriers have been identified that need to be overcome before personalized medicine becomes commonplace.  We would like to discuss one barrier in particular: education.  Currently genetic technology is advancing at an amazing rate. However, there is not a large enough healthcare workforce that can make clinical applications with emerging genetic advances.   Currently pharmacogenetics seems to be taught sporadically in pharmacy programs, giving students just a taste.  It is doubtful that many students graduate with a BScPh degree feeling confident in clinically applying their limited pharmacogenetic knowledge.  Sufficient education to confidently apply pharmacogenetic principles is really only being given to select staff at well funded research hospitals that are in the early stages of implementing pharmacogenetic monitoring programs.  As more monitoring programs prove beneficial, more hospitals/healthcare centres are going to want to adopt pharmacogenetic monitoring and it is unrealistic that each hospital should have to provide extensive clinical pharmacogenetic training.

With the entry level PharmD program at UBC being in the early stages of development, we are left wondering if the enhanced curriculum will involve any additional clinical pharmacogenetic training.  If not, is it possible that a graduate program or continuing education certificate may be obtained that would completely prepare students to have an active role in a pharmacogenetic monitoring program?  Another possibility is adding another residency program that is dedicated to clinically applied pharmacogenetics.  A few key questions need to be addressed while considering pharmacogentics education:  are there currently individuals who would be able to implement and teach these programs?  Also, what are the job opportunities for individuals highly trained in clinical pharmacogenetics within B.C or even Canada?  How will this change in the next 10-20 years? The answers to the previous questions may provide insight into how long it may be before clinical pharmacogenetics is fully implemented into a pharmacy curriculum.

Like a good small business, the implementation of clinical pharmacogenetics within a curriculum will have to start small and expand upon success and demand.  A proposed timeline to consider:

1) a highly trained group of individuals with experience in implementing a pharmacogenetic monitoring system are hired by a hospital for a trial monitoring program.

2) Experienced individuals train small group of hospital staff.

3) Trial is successful, evaluation shows patient outcomes improved and program is financially sustainable.

4) Program expansion: this is where UBC could collaborate with the hospital offering a graduate program or residency that would train a sufficient amount of workers to fill the monitoring program’s needs.

To conclude, personalized medicine appears to be the way of the future but there is a lot of work still to be done by pharmacists and the medical profession as a whole before it becomes feasible and mainstream.


Written by tkenning

February 1st, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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