Medavie Blue Cross has opened up GeneYouIn’s Pillcheck system to plan members and treating physicians to help people get the right medication at the right dose.
The pharmacogenetics pilot is a confidential test where samples are collected using a simple cheek swab. The system – from a field of study that combines pharmacology and genomics – analyses a patient’s DNA and determines how their body processes medications. The samples are destroyed once the report is complete.
Rebecca Smith, director, Group Life & Disability Services at Medavie Blue Cross, said the pilot will help people find out if they need a new dosage or different medication.
She told LHP: “In our day-to-day, we see a lot of individuals try medication after medication, trying to sort through [all the products] because there are so many drugs out there.
“It takes a long time to get through a course of medication and if it doesn’t work, you have to pick the next one and you have to ween yourself off one and start the next. Some of them have side effects that can be very significant for individuals.”
Test results can be used by a disability claimant's treating physician to help select medications that match their pharmacogenetic profile and/or to determine if another medication option needs to be considered. The test results are completely confidential and are not shared with the insurer. They are forwarded directly to the claimant.
The pilot will be offered on a voluntary basis with an initial focus on mental health and pain management claims. Smith believes this tool could have the biggest impact when it comes to mental health because of the rate of new medications coming to market. She said that, ultimately, it will help people get the right treatment faster.
“If the pilot goes well, it will become routine for us to offer this. It’s completely voluntary on the part of the claimant if they want to participate.
“We would continue to offer it not only from the mental health and chronic pain perspective but also for other diagnoses that could benefit. What we anticipate seeing is a faster rate of recovery for individuals that maybe aren’t on the right medications.”
According to Veronika Litinski, CEO of GeneYouIn, physicians and other health care professionals are increasingly using pharmacogenetics and systems like Pillcheck to ensure they're providing the safest medication treatment that best meets their patients' needs.
She said: “It's based around the simple understanding that we are all individuals and not everyone responds to medications the same way. Health care practitioners tell us that Pillcheck makes discussions around medication more patient-centred and improves adherence to treatment. To date, more than half of Pillcheck users have had their prescriptions modified based on their individual test results."