Genetic Testing & Medication Effectiveness – It’s Cool, But Does It Work?

Row of Microscopes on a Table
Image Source: Ousa Chea/Unsplash

In October, the FDA cleared the first DNA test meant to be marketed directly to consumers to help them determine how well certain drugs may work for them.1 The DNA test, conducted by 23andME, provides information on 33 genetic variants that the company say are associated with how patients respond to more than 50 commonly prescribed prescription and over-the-counter medications. While this test is the first consumer directed to be cleared by the FDA, expect to see more in the coming years as pharmacogenetics becomes more mainstream. But the big question is…does it really work?

Background:  What is Pharmacogenetics?

Pharmacogenetics or pharmacogenomics is the study of how genetics impact pharmacology. Pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing is used for determining how an individual will respond to a particular medicine.2 With this type of testing, clinicians would be able to provide a personalized medication plan, rather that prescribing based off the average population. This helps avoid trial and error in finding optimal dosages.

What are the caveats?

The FDA’s marketing authorization came with crucial caveats. The agency cautioned that the test cannot assess whether a drug is appropriate, or gauge a patient’s ability to respond to any specific medication.3 This essentially means that a patient still needs a clinician’s insight in finding the correct medication, but utilizing the results of a DNA test can assist in the dosing process. Pricing can also vary with DNA testing. In many cases, the costs may not outweigh the benefits.

Questions?

If your health plan includes Tria Health, you can talk with a clinically trained pharmacist and review all your current medications (prescription, over the counter and supplements). Tria Health’s pharmacists will help make sure your medications are effectively treating your condition(s) and identify any cost savings opportunities.

Sources:

  1. https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm624753.htm  
  2. http://www.rxeconsult.com/healthcare-articles/Overview-Of-Pharmacogenetic-PGx-Testing-Benefits-Costs-And-Role-In-Personalized-Medicine-853/
  3. https://www.statnews.com/2018/10/31/fda-clears-23-and-me-genetics-test-drug-effectiveness/

Is It Time to Stop One of Your Meds?

Pills on Table
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According to a new study released by the journal Annals of Family Medicine, nearly half of people who take certain types of prescription drugs continue taking them for longer than is recommended or safe. The prescription drugs include antidepressants, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and bisphosphonates (osteoporosis and bone density treatments).1 Most of these medications are only meant to be taken for a certain period, otherwise they can become less effective, less useful, or can lead to more serious side effects.

How Does This Happen?

The authors of this study attribute some of the results to “legacy prescribing”, a situation that occurs when doctors who start someone on a prescription for a good reason may later renew it without a full assessment of whether or not it’s still needed. Per Nitin S. Damle, M.D., past president of the American College of Physicians and a physician in private practice in Rhode Island, “If there’s no follow-up and [patients’] prescriptions are just renewed electronically, there’s very little thought as to whether they need to be on it or not.”

What’s the Risk?

One of the biggest potential dangers of continuing a prescription for too long is that every on going prescription increases thechances of drugs interacting and causing a harmful reaction.2 There is also an increased risk in side effects and unnecessary costs due to non-optimized medication therapy.

What Should You Do?

If you’re worried about your current medication regime, here are a few tips to help you feel confident in what you’re taking:

  • Discuss all your current medications with your doctor, at least once a year.
    • If you have multiple doctors, it can be difficult to ensure they’re all on the same page. At your annual checkup, talk to your primary doctor about all your current medications.
  • Talk to your doctor about reducing your medications
    • While your doctor will know what dosage is best for you, it never hurts to have a yearly discussion to see if you can lower any of your medication dosages. This helps in combating legacy prescribing.
  • If your health plan includes Tria Health, you can talk with a clinically trained pharmacist and review all your current medications (prescription, over the counter and supplements). Tria Health’s pharmacists will help make sure your medications are effectively treating your condition(s) and identify and cost savings opportunities.

For more tips, click here.

Have any Questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://www.consumerreports.org/drugs/should-you-stop-taking-that-medication/?EXTKEY=AMSNLF01
  2. https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/healthyliving/should-you-still-be-taking-that-medicine/ar-BBPDpo6?li=BBnba9O

Heart-Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes

As Thanksgiving approaches, it can be stressful trying to maintain a healthy diet surrounded by indulgences. While it’s true that sweets can be enjoyed in moderation, there are still plenty of alternatives available so you can treat yourself and stay true to your healthy lifestyle. To help you get through the Thanksgiving season, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite Heart-Healthy recipes:

 Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Turkey

Healthy Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean

Maple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Light & Luscious Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

 

Have any questions for us?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Losartan Recall

Recall

Sandoz Inc. is voluntarily recalling one lot of Losartan Potassium Hydrochlorothiazide Tablets, USP 100mg/25mg to the consumer level. This product is being recalled due to the trace amount of an impurity, N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA) contained in the API Losartan. The FDA will continue to investigate this issue and provide additional information when it becomes available. The agency encourages patients and health care professionals to report any adverse reaction to the FDA’s MedWatch program.

Why is it being recalled?

N-Nitrosodiethylamine, which is a substance that occurs naturally in certain foods, drinking water, air pollution, and industrial processes, has been classified as a probable human carcinogen as per International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

What products are recalled?

The product can be identified as Losartan Potassium Hydrochlorothiazide, 100 mg/25 mg tablets in 1000-count plastic bottles, NDC 0781-5207-10, Lot number JB8912; Exp. Date 06/2020. It is important to note that this recall encompasses less than 1% of the national Losartan drug products. This product was distributed nationwide to distributors. The affected product was not distributed prior to October 8, 2018.

Next steps you should take

  • Because Losartan is used in medicines to treat serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled Losartan should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.
  • To determine whether a specific product has been recalled, patients should look at the drug name and company name on the label of their prescription bottle. If the information is not on the bottle, patients should contact the pharmacy that dispensed the medicine.
  • If a patient is taking one of the recalled medicines, they should follow the recall instructions provided by the specific company. This information will be posted to the FDA’s website.
  • Patients should also contact their health care professional (the pharmacist who dispensed the medication or doctor who prescribed the medication) if their medicine is included in this recall to discuss their treatment, which may include another product not affected by this recall or an alternative treatment option.

 

Need help?

Contact your Tria Health pharmacist today for additional assistance with the recall process: 1.888.799.8742

 

Source: https://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm625492.htm

The Great American Smokeout

Pile of used cigarettes
Image Source: Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States, accounting for 29% of all cancer deaths. Not only does smoking cause cancer, it can damage nearly every organ in the body, including the lungs, heart, blood vessels, reproductive organs, mouth, skin, eyes, and bones.1 Tomorrow is The American Cancer Society’s 43rd annual Great American Smokeout® (GASO). GASO is the perfect opportunity for everyone to commit to living tobacco-free. We know that quitting smoking can be difficult and can take more than a day. GASO isn’t necessarily the day for smokers to quit smoking, but rather the day for smokers to start their journey toward a smoke-free life.

How to Get Started

Quitting isn’t an easy task. It takes planning, commitment, trial and error, and a lot of support. Smokers are strongly advised to use proven cessation methods, such as prescription medications and counseling, or a combination of both, to quit smoking. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to get their advice.1 If you’re interested in creating your quit plan, click here for more info.

How to Help Someone that Smokes

If you have a friend or family member ready to quit, here are a few recommendations to help you along the way2:

  • Ask the person whether they want you to ask regularly how they’re doing. Ask how they’re feeling – not just whether they’ve stayed quit.
  • Don’t judge, nag, preach, tease, or scold. This may make the smoker feel worse about him or herself. You don’t want your loved one to turn to a cigarette to soothe hurt feelings.
  • If the person relapses, encourage them to try again. Studies show that most people who don’t succeed in quitting are ready to try again in the near future.

For more tips, click here.

Tria Health and Tobacco Cessation

For employers that offer Tria Health’s Tobacco Cessation Program, Tria provides free confidential counseling with a clinical pharmacist. If you ready to quit smoking, Tria Health’s pharmacist will assist you in managing your medications and finding a treatment plan that works for you.

Tria Health assists, not only members who smoke cigarettes, but members looking to end their use of all tobacco products (e-cigarettes, smoke-free tobacco, hookah, etc.) While scientists are still learning more about the effects of e-cigarettes or e-hookahs, there is already enough evidence to justify efforts to prevent e-cigarette use. We know that the vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful because it contains harmful ingredients, including nicotine. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing brain.3 In addition, smokeless tobacco products also contains many harmful ingredients.4 Tria Health believes in order to maintain optimal health, it is imperative to end the use of all tobacco products.

Have any questions?

Contact the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/great-american-smokeout.html
  2. https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/helping-a-smoker-quit.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/features/ecigarettes-young-people/index.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/smokeless/health_effects/index.htm