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Personalized medication in your pocket

(Vienna, 20th April 2016) Researchers at the Medical University of Vienna are working on a simple system to prevent patients from suffering serious adverse drug reactions. Patients will be able to carry details of their personal risk factors with them in the form of their Medication Safety Code stored on a plastic card. This will mean that treating physicians will always be able to tailor pharmaceutical treatment to the specific needs of the individual. This concept is being developed within the framework of an international research project (Ubiquitous Pharmacogenomics) coordinated by MedUni Vienna and aimed at optimizing treatments on an individual basis.

Currently drugs/medicines are prescribed following a unified procedure. However, each person reacts differently to particular active agents. While a drug can prove very effective for one patient, it can cause serious adverse reactions in another. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that adverse drug reactions are the 4th most common cause of death in the USA – even ahead of lung diseases, diabetes and accidents.

The potentially huge differences in drug reactions are partially due to various genetic variants inherent in each person. PGx tests look at certain areas of an individual's genes that can be used to estimate how the person will probably react to specific pharmaceuticals. The Medication Safety Code system (MSC) envisioned in this project should help treating physicians to interpret these pharmacogenetic results and tailor pharmaceutical treatments to a patient's individual needs.

Simply scan in personal parameters
The main component of the MSC system is a QR code, which stores the patient's encrypted PGx results. This code can be decrypted and interpreted by normal Smartphones and other devices. The QR code takes the treating physicians to a website, which provides recommendations for drug dosage adapted to the patient’s PGx profile.

The MSC can be incorporated in printed lab reports or printed on personalized plastic cards. Patients can carry these cards in their wallets or purses and present them to treating physicians when they are starting drug treatment or their regime is being changed.

Personal details stay with their owner
"The concept of the MSC system does not require any central storage of patient details," explains Matthias Samwald from the Center for Medical Statistics, Informatics and Intelligent Systems at MedUni Vienna. "Patients have full control over the decision of when and with whom to share their test results." The MSC system would be independent of the IT structures of the existing healthcare system, thereby making it a valuable and simple-to-use tool for adjusting medication to suit both in-patients and out-patients.

International EU project

The aim of the international "Ubiquitous Pharmacogenomics" (U-PGx) project, which started in January 2016, is to make effective treatment optimization available to European patients by means of pharmacogenetic tests. The Medical University of Vienna is playing a central role in the project. The European Union's Horizon 2020 programme is funding the international consortium to the tune of 15 million euros. Pharmacogenetic tests and computerized clinical decision-making aids are to be implemented for 8,000 patients in seven European countries.