Groundbreaking research demonstrates the power of using personalised approaches to select and correctly apply pharmaceuticals to patients

It is known, that between 4 and 10 percent of patients who have a particular genetic profile and receive certain prescribed drugs will experience serious adverse side effects that frequently require medical treatment and can lead to death. If all known interactions between genetic makeup and particular common drugs are taken together, this would concern every person in some way. It is also known, that around 5 to 8 percent of hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions, leading to additional burden for the health system and avoidable expenditures.

An EU-funded project has demonstrated the benefits of prescribing drugs to patients based on their genetic information, showing this for the first time in clinical practice across several EU countries. The group of researchers led by Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) in the Netherlands were able to show a significant reduction in drug side effects when the dose of medication was matched to the patients’ DNA traits.

The successful research behind this finding was carried out as part of “Ubiquitous Pharmacogenomics (U-PGx): Making actionable pharmacogenomic data and effective treatment optimization accessible to every European citizen”, a project funded under Horizon 2020.

The team of researchers developed a card known as a “DNA medication pass”, which contains information linking a patient’s genetic information to medicines that could have theirprocessing in the human body altered depending on the specific genetic composition of the individual. This pass, which features a scannable QR code, can be utilised by clinicians and other health care professionals to gain insight into every patient’s required dose for optimal treatment – which is known as their pharmacogenomic information. In the study, which spanned 7 European countries and included almost 7000 patients, the utility of using genetic information to tailor drug prescribing was evaluated in the context of various medical fields. Detailed evaluation found that use of the genetic information for drug prescribing led to 30% fewer side effects. The acceptance of this approach was relatively high among patients.

This milestone has important implications for the field of personalised medicine, a field in which the European Union has long funded efforts. Personalised medicine and prescribing drugs based on individual genetic information gives hope in tackling challenges such as the significant rate of hospitalisations due to adverse reactions to medicines or the aging population and its increasing list of medical needs. The EU continues to champion its strategy to prioritise effective and comprehensive disease prevention, fast and accurate diagnosis, and efficient treatments by tailoring medical care to the individual. Simultaneously, this approach would reduce the cost and burden on health care systems, avoiding the spending of precious funds on drugs with suboptimal results when prescribed uniformly to all.

The scale-up and sustainability of the DNA medication pass can be a step towards the future implementation of pharmacogenomics-based drug prescribing in the wider clinical ecosystem.

More information

Consult this article on The Lancet for more information: A 12-gene pharmacogenetic panel to prevent adverse drug reactions: an open-label, multicentre, controlled, cluster-randomised crossover implementation study

Source: European Commission I Research and Innovation (