| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 18 Medco Health Solutions Inc
MHS.N will collaborate with the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration to research the role of genetics in the safety
and effectiveness of drugs, the pharmacy benefit manager said
The two-year agreement is the latest step in the overall
development of "personalized medicine," in which treatment is
tailored to a patient's genetic makeup, carrying the promise of
reducing unnecessary use of drugs.
Medco, the large U.S. manager of prescription drug
benefits, will help the FDA assess obstacles to the use of
existing genetic tests as they relate to the prescribing of
medicines, as well as new opportunities for such tests.
"The big-picture goal is to facilitate the uptake of
appropriate pharmacogenetic testing in the marketplace," Medco
Chief Medical Officer Robert Epstein said in an interview. "It
can't really happen if you don't have good information about
both the science but also the practice of medicine."
Such use of genetic testing "should take trial and error
out" of prescribing and "make people feel more confidence in
the drugs they're being placed on because they know for them
personally that drug should work," Epstein said.
Medco will deliver a series of reports to the FDA under the
agreement, which runs until Aug. 31, 2010. Areas of study
include the safety of prescription drugs, physician
participation in pharmacogenomic testing, and the usefulness of
such tests in prescribing.
Medco did not disclose financial terms of the agreement.
Based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, it has about 60 million
members and will draw upon its database of pharmacy claims for
a large portion of the data in the reports.
Epstein said the first projects will likely be determined
this fall and that the initial areas of study may be oncology
Medco seeks to lower drug spending for its clients, which
include health plans and large employers, and sees
pharmacogenomics as a potential way to control costs and
improve quality of care.
The company has two other research collaborations involving
pharmacogenomics. One, with the Mayo Clinic, is studying the
use of warfarin, a difficult to use blood thinner that can
cause serious bleeding in some patients.
Another Medco partnership, with Laboratory Corp of America
Holdings (LH.N), is studying the use of the breast cancer
Medco plans on submitting some of the research stemming
from the FDA partnership to peer-reviewed journals for
(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Brian Moss)