A genetic test that helps predict how people will react to certain medicines has been approved for sale in the European Union, Swiss firm Roche Diagnostics has announced. The test, called the AmpliChip CYP450, detects variations in two genes that make key liver enzymes. Variations in the activity of these enzymes are responsible for different reactions to many commonly used drugs. Some people, classed as 'poor metabolisers', may not break a drug down quickly enough, and so could suffer side effects, whereas in 'fast metabolisers' the same drug may be broken down before it has chance to work.
The test looks at the genes CYP2C19 and CYP2D6, and is sold as a DNA microarray - a thumbnail-sized glass 'chip' with DNA fragments arranged on it. The test detects the likely response to a wide range of drugs, including many anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, painkillers, beta-blockers, anti-convulsants and anti-malarial drugs. Roche says that with the launch of the new test 'we are on our way to helping physicians move toward a more personalised approach to therapy'.
Pharmacogenetics - medicines tailored to a person's genetic make-up - has often been touted as the future of healthcare. Earlier this year, UK Health Minister Lord Warner announced that research into pharmacogenetics is to receive £4 million of funding. The new test is the first real example of how this technology might help doctors to prescribe the most suitable medicines for their patients. 'As far as I'm aware, this is the first commercial diagnostic test for personalised medicine', Doris-Ann Williams, of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, told New Scientist magazine. However, she added that at around €450 per test, the cost of the AmpliChip CYPP450 will mean it is only an option for wealthier patients.