The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is launching a massive effort to personalize veterans' medication regimens in partnership with Sanford Health, a 44-hospital system based in Sioux Falls, S.D, the two announced Tuesday.
VA, Sanford Health to bring free pharmacogenetic testing to 125 sites
The program is based on pharmacogenetics, a field of study that uses patients' genetic profiles to predict how well they will respond to different drugs. The idea is to provide physicians with this analysis, so they can tailor medication regimens to each patient—this might mean finding which drug dosage will be most effective for a patient or switching a medication prescription to limit the likelihood of him or her experiencing an adverse side effect.
The VA's new pharmacogenetic testing program is called Pharmacogenomics Action for Cancer Survivorship, abbreviated as PHASeR, and will enroll patients with a history of cancer. However, the VA and Sanford Health said that the program's findings will help inform physicians' treatment plans for various conditions.
For example, the PHASeR program will provide physicians with information on how a patient will likely metabolize anti-depressants and opioids, among other classes of drugs.
The PHASeR program will launch this year at a pilot site in Durham, N.C., according to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and Sanford Health CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft. The VA and Sanford Health plan to expand the program to 250,000 patients at 125 of the federal agency's 1,243 care sites by 2022.
"This will be the largest pharmacogenetic testing effort in the country by orders of magnitude," Dr. Deepak Voora, director of the PHASeR program, said in a news release. Voora is an associate professor of medicine and a member of the center for applied genomics and precision medicine at Duke University School of Medicine.
"We have the potential to improve patient care for each veteran we test, and the scale of the effort will allow us to see trends and conduct research that could improve medical care for the entire population," he added.
Through the PHASeR program, veterans will be able to undergo free genetic testing at local VA facilities. Sanford Health will subsequently process these tests at its lab in South Dakota, and share the results with the patient's physician. "We have seen firsthand how this testing can positively influence patient care," Krabbenhoft said in a news release.
Sanford Health launched its genetic medicine program, Sanford Imagenetics, in 2014. More than 90% of patients who have been tested through Sanford Imagenetics have found that they carry a genetic variant that could affect medication selection or dosage, according to the health system.
PHASeR's free pharmacogenetic testing services are funded through a $25 million gift from philanthropist and Sanford Health namesake Denny Sanford, as well as a matching fundraising effort from the health system. The program initially will not cover genetic counseling for patients, though the VA and Sanford Health said they plan to add this service.
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