Chapman Pharmacy Professors Lead the Way in Precision Medicine

Three Chapman University professors of pharmacy are working at the forefront of a revolutionary tool in medicine.

Jerika Lam, Moom Roosan and Mary Gutierrez, all of whom teach at the Chapman University School of Pharmacy (CUSP), advocate for the vital role that pharmacists play in the burgeoning field of what is commonly referred to as “medicine of precision”.

Pharmacogenomics – part of precision medicine, or “PGx” for short – uses a test that sequences a person’s genes to better tailor drugs for maximum impact and safety. Lam, an associate professor of pharmacy practice, says switching from traditional prescribing methods to using a person’s genetic makeup to tailor their prescriptions is like switching from using Thomas guides to Google Maps.

“We’ve gone from trying to look at the map, looking at traffic lights and road signs, to now when our phones are talking to us or the map is just projected on the car screen. This is where we are with pharmacogenomics,” Lam says.

She, Gutierrez and Roosan published a article in the May 2022 Pharmacy Times, a widely read pharmaceutical publication, on the subject with two other authors.

“This is an area where our faculty are leaders and where the Chapman University School of Pharmacy and our partners are at the forefront of the practice of precision medicine,” said the Dean of the School of Pharmacy. pharmacy, Ron Jordan. “I’m proud to see Chapman bring this challenging field to the masses of practicing pharmacists.”

Variants in a person’s DNA impact how they metabolize a drug. If a drug is not metabolized, it may cause side effects and/or it may not be effective in treating what it was prescribed for, according to Roosan, PGx specialist and assistant professor of pharmaceutical practice.

“Sometimes by looking at DNA we can see who might be a good candidate for a certain drug or not,” she says.

She and her colleagues wrote in the Pharmacy Times that pharmacists with PGx training “are best suited to identify at-risk patients and use the appropriate PGx tests to assess patient medications across multiple specialties, including cardiology, mental health, pain management, and oncology.

PGx uses DNA tests that “contain the equivalent of millions of tests in one,” according to the Food and Drug Administration. Lam compares them to 23andMe and Ancestry.com tests.

“It’s analogous to those two types of tests, but now it’s more drug-specific to help clinicians determine what would be the best treatment for that patient,” she says.

Gutierrez – a psychiatry specialist and professor of pharmacy who recently tested herself – says such tests have become more popular over the past six years.

“A lot of my patients actually ask for the PGx tests so we can interpret the reports and explain the results to them – that’s how a patient didn’t know why they tried multiple antidepressants with a bad response, or why a patient had so many side effects,” she says. “It’s already a very important tool.

She said the tests used to cost a few thousand dollars, but now insurance can pay for them and there is pending national and state legislation to cover the costs of the tests. Lam, an infectious disease expert, says wider use of PGx will save healthcare systems money.

PGx is “definitely a game changer. The extent of a game changer will depend on prescribers and practitioners,” she says.

The three researchers wrote the Pharmacy Times article to help raise awareness about PGx. Roosan covers it in lectures to pharmacy and medical assistant students, and Lam and Gutierrez have led workshops for pharmacists and other healthcare providers. They published a textbook called “Pharmacogenomics: A Primer for Clinicians” last year.

“We emphasized that we have to treat the patient as a whole, and pharmacogenomics is one piece of the puzzle that we try to use to help our patients,” Roosan said.

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