Genetic test personalizes blood thinner medication

Woman having blood drawn

Patients suffering from dangerous blood clots will receive genetic testing to help health professionals at the UI Health System prescribe the proper dose of the blood-thinner warfarin.

UI Health is one of the first in the nation to use genetic information to help patients receive the right dose of the drug, which consistently ranks among the leading causes of serious drug-related problems.

The genetic test will identify common variants in an enzyme that breaks down warfarin and a clotting enzyme that is the target of warfarin, says Larisa Cavallari, associate professor of pharmacy practice and one of the co-directors of the new program.

The ultimate goal, Cavallari said, is to provide personalized medicine to patients, customized to account for their unique genetic ancestry.

“The majority of pharmacogenetic research and use of pharmacogenetics in clinical practice in the United States has been in populations of European descent,” says Edith Nutescu, clinical professor of pharmacy practice and co-director of the program.

“We’re confident that genotype-guided pharmacotherapy in urban, underserved populations will improve the effectiveness and safety of medications.”

Warfarin, which is difficult to dose, is usually begun at similar amounts for all patients, Cavallari said.

The drug is prescribed to treat deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism and to prevent stroke as a result of atrial fibrillation or heart valve replacement. It carries a “black-box” warning from the Food and Drug Administration for bleeding risk.

The pharmacogenetics project is a collaboration between the colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine. Other project directors are William Galanter, assistant professor of clinical medicine; Carol Dodge, manager of the UI Health Molecular Pathology Laboratory; Victor Gordeuk, professor of hematology/oncology; Shrihari Kadkol, associate professor of pathology; and Thomas Stamos, associate professor of medicine.

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