08 Dec

Research project reaches key milestone

December 8th, 2015

On Nov. 26, the final 200th patient saliva sample arrived at UBC’s sequencing lab as part of the research project “Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy”.

The 18-month project is jointly funded by the BC Pharmacy Association and Genome BC and uses community pharmacies to help make drug therapy decisions using a patient’s DNA. Research is being done by a team at UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Community pharmacists began recruitment of patients, who are or have been on the anticoagulation medication warfarin, in late April 2015.

A total of 33 pharmacies across the province were involved, and 39 pharmacists were trained on the projects’ standard operating procedures.

As part of the project, each community pharmacist underwent rigorous training that included face-to-face, one-on-one training on patient privacy and legislation as well as operational procedures such as sample collection and shipping back to UBC for sequencing the DNA.

“We weren’t out to test the science,” says Geraldine Vance, CEO of the Association. “We know the science works. What we wanted to find out is could this be done by community pharmacies. And we proved it could.”

The team at UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences is now sequencing and analyzing the DNA samples. They’ll generate reports that model how a patient’s DNA would have impacted their drug dosage, and the final reports will be completed by early February 2016. It’s important to note that in this research phase, neither the patients nor their doctors will receive results.

A surprising learning from the project was the interest by patients and pharmacists, says Dr. Corey Nislow, UBC’s lead researcher for the project.

“I was very pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic both patients and pharmacists were for the project,” he says.

The next step for the project is to launch a 1,000 patient trial across Canada, which we hope will begin later next year. The second phase of the project will examine not just warfarin, but will expand to look at other medications impacted by a person’s genetics and deliver reports back to the patient and their prescribers. Community pharmacists will counsel and collect patient samples and send them back to UBC for sequencing and analysis.

“This project very effectively proved this could be done,” Nislow says. “Now we want to make sure what worked in B.C. will work in the Maritimes, will work in the Prairies and work in Ontario.”


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