It’s 2017, and pharmacists, doctors, and nurses alike still haven’t cracked the code for how to tell which medicines for managing blood pressure work for which patients and why. High blood pressure is an issue that plagues nearly a third of the adult population in the United States, and yet, only about half of those who are taking medications to help get a handle on the issue experience relief from the malady. With all the research studying blood pressure and heart conditions, how can this possibly be?
Pharmacogenomic studies are finally making their way into cardiovascular diseases. By and large, most who are familiar with pharmacogenomics associate the field primarily with cancer treatments and personalized medicines. As I’ve written about before, the field studies how a person’s genome impacts how a drug is metabolized and put to use in the body, and heart specialists are starting to suspect that underlying genetic variations may be the culprit of the blood pressure medication mystery.
A Mayo Clinic Study is attempting to capture patients’ genomic data and keep it on file so that doctors and care providers can factor in genetic information when diagnosing issues and prescribing a medication. The idea for this study is a simple one: researchers want to determine if preemptively accounting for a patient’s genes can lead to finding the proper medicine and dosage sooner.
For the purposes of this study, eighty-four genes known to impact drug response and blood pressure were screened for. Clinicians will have access to this information as they determine which medicines to offer for which issues, and hopefully, they’ll get the diagnosis and prescription right the first time.
Two of the biggest concerns of pharmacogenomics are cost and security. For this mode of genome-based analysis to permeate the larger medical field, the cost has to be scalable across thousands and thousands of people. Moreover, ever since the Wanna Cry global cybersecurity panic, hospital records have to be kept even more secure. American citizens especially are remarkably nervous about giving up their genetic information, and if there’s any security concerns, the buy-in will be slim and none.
We have to start harnessing all the data we have towards finding more effective solutions to problems as common as blood pressure, and this study could be a huge first step.