As of June 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 23 direct-to-consumer genetic tests that can reveal a person’s risk for developing certain diseases. Recognizing the potential for these tests to improve patient care is important for effectively prescribing for your patients who are ready to know their genomic profile. If you’re like most pharmacists, you may be asking yourself how or if you can get involved in this new area of practice. In this article, we’ll explore the ways pharmacists can incorporate gene testing into their daily practice, what benefits prescribing might bring, and essential tips to succeed as a gene testing pharmacist.
What is the benefit of gene testing?
Gene testing is the process of collecting a sample of cells, sequencing the DNA, and interpreting the data to identify specific gene mutations or changes. The information gathered from a gene test can be applied to many areas of health, including disease risk assessment, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. The benefits of gene testing include improved risk assessment and diagnosis, customized treatment plans, reduced health care costs, and increased patient satisfaction. However, gene testing is not yet a routine practice, so the potential benefits may not be fully realized at this time.
How will pharmacists benefit from incorporating gene testing?
As pharmacists increasingly learn about how gene tests can benefit patients, they may feel empowered to incorporate this technology into their practice. Gene tests are likely to increase the level of diagnostic certainty for patients, which may prompt more prescriptions for preventive care. In addition, incorporating gene testing into your practice can help reduce the time it takes to diagnose a condition and establish a proper treatment plan. For example, a patient may come into your pharmacy and request testing for a specific gene mutation that is known to increase the risk of developing colon cancer. If the mutation is detected, a pharmacist may prescribe a colonoscopy earlier than they otherwise would. The time saved in this scenario could be used to help other patients and may lead to increased job satisfaction among pharmacists.
How can pharmacists prescribe for patients undergoing gene testing?
Gene test results are not considered actual diagnoses, so they will not automatically qualify a patient for healthcare coverage or a prescription. Depending on the test, patients may need to be prescribed certain medications to reduce their risk. For example, let’s say a patient comes into your pharmacy and asks to have their BRCA gene mutation tested. This mutation is associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, so a pharmacist may prescribe tamoxifen (a cancer-preventive drug) if the mutation is detected. Another possibility is a patient may come in for a gene test, but the results reveal a less serious condition for which a prescription would be unnecessary. In that instance, a pharmacist may recommend the patient see a physician for further diagnosis and treatment.
What types of patients should be on the lookout for during gene testing?
Because gene tests reveal information about a person’s future health, it’s important to know who is receiving this type of testing and why. Some patients may be ordering a test on their own and self-administering the results, while others may have a genetic counselor to interpret their findings. In either case, you might be the first person a patient approaches after receiving their test results. The following types of patients may be considering gene testing: People who are at a higher risk of developing certain diseases – People who have a family history of certain diseases can undergo gene tests to see if they have a genetic mutation that may increase their risk of developing the same condition. People who are considering preventive care – For the patients with a higher risk of developing a disease, gene tests can reveal the specific preventive care measures they should take in the future. For example, a patient may receive a test that reveals a mutation associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. In this case, the patient may be prescribed a colonoscopy to examine their colon and reduce their risk of developing the cancer.
Strategies to effectively incorporate gene testing into pharmacy practice
To successfully integrate gene testing into your pharmacy practice, you’ll need to prepare for the possibility that a patient will walk in with their test results in hand. Here are a few ways you can be ready for this situation: Be knowledgeable about the gene tests that are available – Familiarize yourself with the different types of gene tests that are available, including the types of diseases they can detect, the genes they are associated with, and the mutations they look for. Be familiar with the patient’s perspective – It’s important to understand how a patient feels when they walk in with their test results in hand. Many patients feel a sense of empowerment when they learn about their genomic profile, but a few may also feel a sense of fear or uncertainty. It’s important to be equipped with resources to help patients who may be anxious or confused about their test results.
Gene testing is only beginning to gain momentum in the health care industry, so pharmacists who are ready to embrace this technology have an opportunity to get ahead of the curve. To succeed as a gene testing pharmacist, you’ll need to become familiar with the types of gene tests that are available, the mutations they look for, and the diseases they can detect. Once you’re prepared, you can be ready to help patients who walk in with their test results in hand.