Medco Health Solutions Inc. and Laboratory Corporation of America® Holdings announced a strategic research agreement to advance the field of pharmacogenomics, an emerging science integrating genetics and drug treatment that is leading the way toward personalized medicine.
The research effort, which will be centered on tamoxifen, is the latest in a rapidly growing field of studies linking individual genetics to the safety and efficacy of specific prescription drugs. Genotyping for the study will be performed using the FDA-cleared Roche AmpliChip® CYP450 test.
Tamoxifen, a drug that deprives certain tumors of estrogen needed for their growth, treats some forms of breast cancer and prevents the disease from occurring in some women at high risk for the condition. Approximately 10 percent of women using tamoxifen do not fully benefit from the drug because of variations in genes encoding drug metabolizing enzymes.
"This agreement is between two industry leaders that are at the forefront of the movement toward personalized medicine. Companion diagnostics can help physicians determine which drug will be most effective for particular patients. This will benefit patients and lower healthcare costs by improving outcomes, enhancing safety and reducing ineffective drug regimens," said Myla P. Lai-Goldman, M.D., Executive Vice President, Chief Scientific Officer and Medical Director for LabCorp.
Genetic testing can help clinicians identify risk factors for disease and predict how a person is likely to respond to a wide variety of drugs, including commonly used prescriptions such as pain relievers, anticoagulants, and cancer drugs. This information has a bearing on what drug is selected and may help optimize doses for particular drugs.
"The adoption of new technologies needs to accelerate when there is clear evidence of clinical and financial benefit. These new tests can help ensure patients are getting the right medication at the right dosage, while also assisting to avoid adverse drug events," Medco Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Epstein said.
"This agreement with LabCorp is part of Medco's strategy to partner with established leaders in the area of personalized medicine to bring the most advanced approaches to pharmacy care to our clients and their members," Dr. Epstein continued.
Research has demonstrated that patients respond to drugs about 50-75 percent of the time. For many chemotherapy treatments, the response rate is as low as 25 percent. Genetic information can help determine the drugs that will be safest and most effective for particular patients.