NHS England has set up a working party to look at rollout to avoid millions of reactions to commonly prescribed medicines including painkillers, beta blockers and antidepressants
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Everyone could be offered a DNA test on the NHS for key drugs by next year in what experts are calling “a new era of medicine”.
The pioneering test of blood or saliva costing £100 will be used by GPs and pharmacists to check for 40 common gene variations that mean drugs either do not work or trigger dangerous side effects.
Four in ten of us currently suffer such adverse reactions at some point in our lives and the most serious can be fatal.
NHS England has set up a working party to look at rollout to avoid millions of reactions to commonly prescribed medicines including painkillers, beta blockers and antidepressants.
One woman today describes how a side effect to her epilepsy medication triggered blisters which saw her lose 65% of the skin on her body.
Sir Munir Pirmohamed, of Liverpool University and chair of the working group, said: “What we’re trying to do is to improve ability to predict when the patient’s going to respond to the first drug we prescribe to them and not have this trial and error approach that we adopt at the moment because of lack of genetic data.
“What we’re doing is really going to be a new era of medicine.”
Some 6.5% of all hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions, costing the NHS between £500 million and £2 billion annually.
The type of testing, known as pharmacogenomic testing, will also predict what is the right dose for each patient to ensure medication works best.
A report, outlining how rollout of will work, is published today by the British Pharmacological Society and the Royal College of Physicians.
Examples include the common painkiller codeine for which six million Brits do not produce enzyme CYP2D6 meaning it does not work.
Also a genetic variation called DPD deficiency, which 5-8% of the population have, means that common chemotherapy could actually kill a cancer patient rather than save them.
Prof Sir Mark Caulfield, of Queen Mary University of London and contributor to the report, said: “I can tell you today that 99.5% of us have at least one change in our genome, that if we come across the wrong medicine It will either not work or it will actually cause harm. And 25% of us have four of these changes.”
He added: “We can see this could be established extremely quickly.”
Some hospitals will be offering it by the end this year and it is expected to go nationwide in England in 2023. The working group said it expected the NHS in Wales and Scotland to follow.
Prof Pirmohamed added: “We have something called the National Health Service but in reality it is a national sickness service as what it does really is treat sick people.
“We need to move towards a preventive health service… if we do have the genetic testing we can make drug therapy safer and more optimised, then we are in effect preventing problems.
“The NHS would be the first integrated care system can be able to implement this in the world.”
The report is published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.