Professor spearheads pharmacogenomics learning program for pharmacists

pharmacistsProfessor David Kisor saw a need for more pharmacogenomic education for pharmacists, and he wanted to fill it.

Dr. Kisor, PharmD, serves as professor and chair of pharmaceutical sciences at Manchester University’s Pharmacy Program, in Fort Wayne, Ind. He’s long been interested in the field of pharmacogenomics, or how individual genetic differences affect drug response, and has written extensively on the topic.

For the past 10 years, Dr. Kisor said, most pharmacist education has included some information on pharmacogenomics, but inconsistently across different program curricula. Some programs do not including the subject matter at all, he added. This will change in 2016 when the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, which accredits programs leading to the doctor of pharmacy degree, will begin requiring pharmacogenomics as a component of all pharmacy program curricula.

“The problem is, though, we have a work force of pharmacists out there that have had relatively little education on pharmacogenomics,” Dr. Kisor said.

He wanted to help change that.

Dr. Kisor envisioned a pharmacogenomics program specifically tailored for pharmacists. As drug-drug interaction experts, pharmacists are well-suited to learn and apply information about drug-gene and drug-drug-gene interactions, he said.

“When pharmacists learn about this information, they view it and approach it in a similar way to drug-drug interactions,” Dr. Kisor said.

“They have a very clear understanding of the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic implications, and they can apply that to patient care.”

Other efforts have been made to this end, Dr. Kisor said, such as a group based at the University of California San Diego that has a program called PharmGenEd. This program offers pharmacy students and practicing pharmacists online courses and curricula in pharmacogenomics.

More Hands-On

Dr. Kisor, though, wanted something more hands on. So he and colleagues at his university and the Indiana Pharmacist Alliance designed their own.

“We felt that a six-week, 20-hour program capped off with a whole day of live interaction with simulated patients would give pharmacists more experience at applying pharmacogenomics,” Dr. Kisor said.

As far as we’re aware, this 20-hour program is the first of its kind.”

The program, which wrapped up in mid-2015, included 13 hours of self-study and seven hours of live sessions where pharmacists interviewed volunteers serving as simulated patients. The pharmacist discussed the patient’s medical “chief complaint” and symptoms. They were then expected to review simulated medication regimens and pharmacogenetic test results to arrive at a diagnosis.

“And, across the board, they were able to take that information and apply it,” Dr. Kisor said.

“When the pharmacists met with the simulated patients, they were able to utilize reference materials and [pharmacogenetic] guidelines to appropriately make recommendations for those patients, so it gave them a lot of confidence.”

Information Vital to Pharmacists

Twenty-four pharmacists or pharmacy students signed up for the course, Dr. Kisor said, and the vast majority had nothing but good things to say about the program. Of the 17 pharmacists that took the after-course survey, all agreed they would apply what they learned in their individual practices.

“It was successful from the standpoint of having a number of different types of practitioners there. We had community pharmacists, we had hospital pharmacists, and we had long term care pharmacists,” Dr. Kisor said.

With this program’s success, Dr. Kisor said there are plans for more. A number of pharmacists had reached out to him after the registration deadline passed asking when the next one would be.

“There are plans through the Indiana Pharmacist Alliance, and even other avenues, to expand and broaden the program to more pharmacists,” Dr. Kisor said.

Dr. Kisor said pharmacogenetic information is vital for pharmacists to learn and apply to the comprehensive medication reviews they already provide patients. Pharmacists also have a role to play in educating both patients and other healthcare providers on the importance of genetic differences on drug response, he added.

“I think pharmacists need to not only be educated about pharmacogenomics, but they also need to be the ones to educate others about pharmacogenomics,” Dr. Kisor said.

“With the increased interest in pharmacogenetic testing, questions are going to be coming from patients. “And because pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare provider, they are the ones that are going to see a lot of these questions.”

Want to hear another pharmacist’s perspective on pharmacogenomics? Check out Genelex’s own Rachel Sass’ take on in the issue at “The Pharmacist’s Corner.”