Genomics Update"

Physicians in Survey Recognize Lack of Genetic Test Knowledge

MOST PHYSICIANS BELIEVE they are inadequately informed about pharmacogenomics (PGx) and how to utilize genetic tests. That’s the finding of a survey of 10,303 physicians and reveals an opportunity for pathologists and clinical lab professionals to fill an unmet need.

In fact, only 10% of the 10,303 physicians responding to the survey believed they have adequate education about such testing. By contrast, 98% of respondents said having patients’ genetic test results would be useful when making treatment decisions. Titled “The National Pharmacogenomics Physician Survey,” the study was conducted by researchers from Medco Health Solutions and the American Medical Association (AMA). The findings were presented last month at the 59th Annual American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) Meeting.

Need For More Education

This survey provides pathologists with a baseline perspective about the existing level of physician knowledge and use of pharmacogenomics testing. Among responding physicians, the survey showed there was a lack of formalized PGx train- ing; only 26% had either medical school or postgraduate PGx education. But notably, survey results revealed that those physicians who were well informed about PGx tests were twice as likely to order or recommend them as those who were not.

“The results of this survey make complete sense—physicians who feel well-informed about genetic testing or have had previous pharmacogenomics (PGx) training are far more likely to have ordered these tests or recommended them to their patients,” commented E.J. Stanek, Pharm.D., Senior Director, Personalized Medicine, for Medco Health Solutions, Inc., one of the researchers. “What makes less sense is the dearth of formal PGx education available to physicians. According to the survey, only a little more than one in four physicians had any type of PGx training in either graduate or postgraduate schooling.

“Despite this knowledge gap, there is wide acceptance that pharmacogenomics has a potential role in patient care, with almost unanimous agreement among physicians that a patient’s genetic profile may influence drug therapy,” Stanek added. “While the number of physicians who had ordered or recommended PGx tests was small (13%), that figure is actually quite significant since, if extrapolated to include all U.S. physicians, it would indicate that approximately 50,000 physicians who care for a large number of patients have engaged in this type of testing. It is also quite encouraging that many physicians who had not yet adopted PGx testing anticipated that they would be doing so in the very near future.”

“The survey clearly identifies the need for increased pharmacogenomic education and training opportunities for physicians to accelerate the use of PGx testing—a critical step toward improving patient safety and outcomes,” concluded Stanek.

These are welcome developments for pathologists and lab managers. It is evidence that physicians will value the education and clinical consultation on genetic and molecu- lar testing that labs can provide.

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