PGx & Your Genetics: Plans to solve disparities in designing medicine

PGX – Pharmacogenetics

New insights in Pharmacogenetics (PGx) are driving strategy to solve the common disparities we see in designing medicines. Pharmacogenetics (PGx) is the study of how people respond differently to drug therapy based upon their genetic makeup or genes.

In a new perspective piece published in the February 5th issues of Science, pharmacologist Namandje Bumpus, a Ph.D in the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, outlined the molecular differences in how well certain drugs work among distinct populations. She also laid out a four-part plan to improve the equity of drug development. “Human beings are more similar than we are different,” says Dr.Bumpus.  “Yet, the slightest variations in our genetic material can cause big differences in how well drugs work in our bodies. This is not a new idea.” Genetic variations are more likely to occur in some ethic groups versus others.

Dr.Bumpus is advocating that these differences make it even more important to increase the diversity in clinical trails of new drugs. Yet, numerous clinical trails continue without diverse participation, this potentially leads to poor outcomes for people of color and can lead to less access to emerging therapies. Now, as new treatments take us to a critical turning point in a pandemic that has disproportionally affected people of color, the need for better standards for diversity in clinical trails is greater than ever, says Dr.Bumpus.

Dr.Bumpus’ framework for improved drug development includes a four-part plan. The four include:  laboratory research of cellular and animal models to study genetic variability; better hiring practices to diversify the scientific workforce; diversity requirements for funding agencies; and diversity reporting requirements on clinical trial demographics in articles published in scientific journals. Dr.Bumpus goes on to note. “By implementing diversity requirements that demand diversity among clinical trial participants and in study design, funding agencies would ensure accountability—and scientific journals would increase transparency for their audiences. At the level of research institutions, biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, Bumpus advocates for hiring practices to build a more diverse workforce. With a diverse workforce comes diversity in thought, she says, and a higher likelihood that researchers will be more attuned to build genetic variation into their studies.

Genetic variations and mutations related to drug response are often associated with a family of enzymes vital to drug metabolism, known as cytochromes P450. This family of enzymes in humans processes about 75% of clinically available drugs. Still, subtle genetic differences can alter the enzyme in people and some mutations are more prevalent in specific ethic groups. The mutated or variated enzymes can affect how medicines are processed and used by the body, thus, telling us what medicines work for one person could be ineffective of even toxic for another person. Because most clinical trials of these drugs included people of European descent and few people of African descent, disparities in drug effectiveness are often not immediately known. Bumpus says the framework may compel the drug development field to take steps toward a future where “treatments are most likely to work for all people” and “existing health disparities are not further exacerbated.”

What does this mean for you? Understanding your genetic responses to medications can directly impact your personal and family’s healthcare plan.

Vita Medical Solutions is proud to partner with laboratories to facilitate access to advanced PGx genetic testing.

Learn more about personal and family Pharmacogenetics (PGx) markers with a simple mouth swab. With qualifying insurance, this test can cost you nothing out of pocket. Click here to schedule a call with one of Vita Medical’s Patient Service Consultants.

Call us 1.800.590.9292 (toll free) or email at [email protected].

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