ESPT 2014. From implementation to realisation

I’ve just returned from the European Society of Pharmacogenetics and Theranostics conference in Santorini. The event bought together the greatest minds in the field from all over Europe, with a few international counterparts too. Over my four days amongst them I realized that this community had the power to drastically change the way we prescribe – shifting healthcare into a future. Barely a week goes by without another landmark trial or innovation, the dream of personalised medicine is within our reach; all we need now is greater collaboration and a stronger collective voice. 

At ESPT last year the focus seemed more on the possibilities of pharmacogenetics (PGx) and the recent academic developments. There were of course a handful of critics who deemed the evidence as weak and the routine use of this technology as decades away. This year there was a noticeable shift in thought – the majority had moved on from verification to utility - the talk was now all about implementation. Examples were shared by countries who were already using genetic data in clinics to inform and guide prescribing. Denmark, Italy, Austria and Holland lead the way, discussing how genetic testing was being routinely carried out and used for clinical decision by pioneering physicians. Prof. Ivan Brandslund from Denmark needs a special mention, as the implementation there sounds extremely progressive. 

Prof. Ron H.N. van Schaik, chair of the ESPT Scientific and Clinical Implementation Division, announced the launch of the European Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium (Eu-PIC). An organization dedicated to the creation of a European best practice network. Such a network could accelerate translation and implementation of PGx, an incentive that Geneixis hugely in favor of.

The final session on Saturday was a discussion for the floor to share ideas on what we believe the next steps are for adoption and implementation. Dr. Graham Beastall President of the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine (IFCC) floated the idea of approaching patient groups and empowering them to advocate and drive PGx testing. The example of HLA testing in HIV patients before Abacavir is prescribed generated great interest. 

While I agree that patients are key stakeholders I believe that adoption could be achieved without patient pressure and rather through greater collaboration and a single strong community voice. We need to develop a shared language, a common vocabulary, one that we can use when communicating PGx to all stakeholders. This will ensure we all give a consistent consolidated message to everyone from patients to policy makers to physicians. The later are key in adoption, we need to bring them onside and ensure we clearly communicate how PGx medication could support them and enhance their practice. To access this important community it’s important to remember that physicians alone cannot drive adoption; the hospital board has to be considered too. When approaching each of these stakeholders we must remember what the true promise of PGx is for them – doctors need validity, which can only be gained with evidence of patient benefit while hospital decision makers want to talk hospital admission rates, cost benefits and safety. I left Santorini feeling inspired and more confident that ever about the bright future of PGx. Everyone I spoke to reinforced my belief that Geneix is creating powerful and necessary solutions – ones which will drive adoption and galvanize implementation. Our vision is aligned with the progressive forward thinkers of the ESPT network, and as part of this community we will ensure that in time the talk has shifted again - to how the dream of personalized medicine is our new reality.