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Genetic testing indicates drug efficacy

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Genetic testing could help doctors figure out who’s a good candidate for one of the world’s most-prescribed heart medications.

The heart attack preventer clopidogrel is sold under the brand name Plavix.

In the new study, researchers found that genetic testing works to identify those who might need a higher dose of Plavix, or patients who should be on a completely different medicine.

Michael Christman is president of the Coriell Institute in Camden. His genetics research group studies the emerging field of personalized medicine.

This is kind of a poster child for using genetic testing in determining which drugs are effective, and I think the real message is this is the tip of the iceberg. This is one drug. This is likely to be true for many of the huge blockbuster drugs that are on the market today.

Patients metabolize Plavix differently, and Christman says it doesn’t work for about a quarter of the people who use it now. That leaves many patients vulnerable to serious heart complications.

Christman says most doctors don’t regularly use genetic testing to guide their prescribing, but he suspects that insurance companies will soon push for more genetic testing.

A genetic test can cost about $400 — but it can be much more costly to leave a patient on a drug that doesn’t work.

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