Warfarin (brand name Coumadin) is a popular blood-thinning medication used by about 2 million Americans. It’s prescribed after surgeries, strokes, blood clots, and to prevent blood clots. Medco Health Solutions and the Mayo Clinic are collaborating on a project using this testing to determine initial dosing for patients.
Epstein and other experts say the warfarin projects comprise the first broad use of personalized medicine, or targeted therapy, in which a person’s genetic makeup is used to pick the best medicine or dose. This approach essentially adjusts for differences in body chemistry that explain why one pain reliever or allergy pill works great for you but not for your mom. …
If the warfarin studies are successful, patients will start demanding personalized medicine, he predicted. Insurers will, too, if the Medco study proves it saves money and protects patients.
That’s fairly likely, given Medco data showing that if patients have their warfarin dose changed more than once _ meaning doctors didn’t get it right the first two tries _ their risk of being hospitalized for complications jumps from 20 percent to 31 percent.
[Dr. Robert] Epstein [CMO of Medco] said he’s hit “a home run” with his pitch to get employers and insurance companies sponsoring the prescription plans to join the study. “Everyone we’ve talked to unanimously was in,” said Epstein, who expects the reduction in medical costs will be triple the test price of a few hundred dollars per patient.
When - and I say when, not if - hospitals and insurers see the bottom line benefits of personalized medicine, you can bet we’ll see CYP450 and similar DNA testing entering everyday medical practice. I just hope that these changes will happen quickly in an industry reknowned for moving slo-o-wly.