By David Kipkorir
The use of pharmacogenomics into clinical practice is a key approach for practising individualized medicine, which aims to maximize drug efficacy and minimize drug toxicity, an associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Nairobi, School of Pharmacy has said.
Professor Francis Ndemo said study of how genes affect the way medicines work in peoples’ bodies is called pharmacogenomics.
The pharmacotherapy specialist confirmed that ‘one size fits all’ drug dosing doesn’t work and leads to poor health outcomes.
“By detecting the factors that predispose a person to a particular disease and the molecular mechanisms that cause the condition, treatment and prevention strategies can be tailored to each individual,” Ndemo said.
In an interview with Health Business, he described individualized medicine as being the selection of ‘the right drug at the right dose for the right patient’.
“By screening to know who shouldn’t get certain drugs, we can prevent life-threatening side effects,” Ndemo said.
He said some drug reactions seemed hereditary and currently, translating pharmacogenomics knowledge and research into clinical practice remains the first priority in implementing individualized medicine.
Ndemo added that the advent of DNA discovered CYP (sip) genes are the foundation of pharmacogenetic tests, as they metabolize most drugs.
“They convert certain medicines into their active form, make some drugs more or less toxic, and also break them down at different speeds: rapidly, moderately, slowly or, in some cases, not at all,” he said.
Knowing the genes that control drug reactions has now become an exciting new tool for medical doctors and pharmacists in treating their patients.
According to Prof Ndemo, this medical breakthrough, in pharmacogenomics, matches drugs to unique individual’s genome.
He explained that human diseases are marked by an identifiable group of symptoms arising from certain abnormalities in biological pathways, but patients with similar diseases are not identical.
The US Food and Drug Administration records shows that adverse drugs reactions are the fourth-leading cause of death. It has therefore mandated that pharmacogenomics information be included on the labels of 300 medications which include painkillers, antibiotics and high blood pressure drugs, which are used widely here in Kenya.
Ndemo said the use of pharmacogenetic information as part of treatment relieves symptoms, reduce side effects and curtail hospital admissions.
“Kenyan medical doctors and pharmacists should be encouraged to practice pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetic testing to see whether a drug might be safe or effective,” said the specialist.
Individualized medicine is expected to radically transform health care.