LUMC researchers: customized medication leads to fewer side effects
According to an international group of researchers led by Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), patients experience 30% fewer serious side effects when medication doses are tailored to their DNA. The study, published in The Lancet, a world leading medical journal, is the first to demonstrate the practical application of prescribing drugs based on an individual’s genetic information.
"The evidence has been delivered, this is really a breakthrough," said Professor of Clinical Pharmacy Henk-Jan Guchelaar, one of the study's authors. Nearly 7,000 people from seven European countries participated. The medicines used were intended for the treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disorders and psychological complaints, among other things.
Everyone has different DNA, which can lead to drugs causing a different reaction in different patients. As a result, some people, break down medicines more slowly, whoch means they need a lower dose and thus prevent the risk of side effects. The participants in the study all received a DNA medication card, which was tailored to their own DNA profile. Doctors and pharmacists could determine exactly which drug dose was optimal for each patient by scanning the card. Not only did the test subjects suffer less from side effects, they were also very pleased with the card itself. It gave them a sense of direction, say the researchers, because they were actively involved in their own treatment.
In addition to the DNA profile, there are several factors that influence how someone responds to a drug. For example, men and women sometimes react differently, or ethnicity plays a role. With the help of the medication card, medication can be optimized for everyone, regardless of gender or ethnic background.
A more effective treatment does not have to be limited to side effects. "Use of the DNA profile can also lead to a better effect of a drug," says Guchelaar. Figuring out the subsequent stages of the implementation process also raises various questions for the researchers: Should the card be reimbursed? And should it be considered part of standard care? Guchelaar and Swen believe it should. According to them, this study provides a good foundation to do so. “We want to move towards mapping the DNA of every patient who comes to the pharmacy,” Guchelaar notes. “In this way, we can make treatment more effective and safer for each patient”.