Biotechnology

CVS Wants Your Genes

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I'll personalize your medicine for you

Genetic tests are ridiculously cheap these days: Last week, The New York Times ran a story about pre-conception genetic tests from a company called Counsyl. You send them $349, they send you a cup to spit in, and two or three weeks later they send you results for more than 100 genetic conditions. The price is right and the process is painless, but getting genetic info about hypothetical future spawn is a one-shot deal for most people, not something they're going to integrate into their health routine.

But after years of chatter about personalized medicine, two important companies have finally put their money where Ronald Bailey's mouth is.

About 100 million American have their prescription benefits managed by one of two companies, Medco or CVS Caremark. And both companies have recently invested in firms that aim to make genetic testing more accessible and easier for doctors and patients to interpret.

"Physicians understand the concept of pharmacogenomics, but they don't really feel comfortable interpreting the results," says Pat Deverka, a physician and researcher at the Institute for Pharmacogenomics and Individualized Therapy at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. A recent survey by Medco found that while almost all physicians polled recognized that genetic profiles may influence a reaction to a drug, only 10 percent believed they were adequately informed about pharmacogenetic testing.

And once they're invested in the world of personalized medicine, it only makes sense that these pharmacists would start investing in research:

Medco is also funding studies to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of specific pharmacogenomics tests, including those for the blood thinner warfarin and the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

Get your genes ready!