Community Pharmacists Have Been Doing Personalized Medicine for Some Time

February 04, 2010

To the Editor, 

I commend BusinessWeek for an interesting article on the future of the pharmacy industry through the lens of genetic-based personalized medicine ("Making Personalized Medicine Pay," January 21, 2010). However, one critical link was missing: the community pharmacist. 

Any effort to match tailor-made medicines to the patient’s individual, genetic makeup must utilize community pharmacists in order to succeed. They’re already on the front lines, face-to-face with patients, helping them achieve the most effective—and cost-effective—medication therapy for their condition. The most advanced lab designs won’t reach their full potential without enlisting local pharmacists—the most accessible, highly trained medication experts around. 

In a way, community pharmacists have already been doing personalized medicine for some time. For decades, pharmacists have worked with physicians to custom-make drugs to treat a patient’s condition (though a process called compounding) when mass-manufactured medications are either unavailable or ineffective. 

Community pharmacies like North Carolina-based Kerr Drug are taking pharmacy to a new level. Kerr Drug is working on an innovative pharmacogenomics model with the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Within the walls of Kerr Drug's unique community pharmacy, a simple analysis of a saliva sample can determine likelihood of treatment response for many prescription medications. With this information, the pharmacist can make recommendations to the patient's physician for "personalized medicine". This collaboration is predicted to result in better health outcomes and substantial cost savings to the patient and their health plan.

Bruce T. Roberts, RPh
Executive Vice President and CEO
National Commu

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