This week on Health Connect South Radio we featured Bob Bean, CEO of Harmonyx, a technology company specializing in pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.
As we have learned on previous episodes of the show, taking medications correctly is vital to achieving a positive outcome. In fact, incorrectly taking a medication or taking certain combinations of medications can actually make you very sick or even kill you.
Add to that this fact–our genetic code can affect how our body responds to a given medication we’re taking. For example, 30% of people who take Plavix, the popular anti-platelet medication to prevent stroke, get no effect from taking the drug due to a particular genetic mutation. Consider the money spent by 1/3 of patients taking this medicine and it’s literally doing nothing in their body.
Harmonyx employs a non-invasive cheek swab which collects a DNA sample which is then tested for that individual’s genetically-driven response to a prescribed medication. Depending on the results, it may be possible for the pharmacist and physician to identify another medication from that particular medicine family that will have the desired effect and/or avoid possible negative responses to the original med.
The test is available at participating pharmacies and can provide useful information for patients taking statin medication, ADHD meds, pain medication, and anti-platelet medication. The test will reveal if the patient’s body will respond as expected or if they may experience adverse effects due to the way their body processes the prescribed medication.
In this way the patient is able to get medical treatment that is likely to have the desired outcome while avoiding probable negative effects and/or spending money and taking a medicine that literally does nothing for them.
On this episode I also shared the conversation I had with Ebola survivor, Dr. Ian Crozier, who was a keynote speaker at the 2015 Health Connect South event. Ian was providing care to Ebola patients in Sierra Leone when he contracted the disease. He had the good fortune of being flown to Emory Hospital in Atlanta for intense specialized care. In spite of significant damage to numerous organs including kidneys, eyes, and even his brain, Ian survived and shared his poignant story with the attendees of this year’s event.
I was very pleased to get to meet him and speak with him for a few minutes.
Bob Bean, CEO of Harmonyx
Dr. Ian Crozier, Ebola Survivor