Savvy Psychopharmacology

Pharmacogenomics testing: What the FDA says

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The FDA’s first statement. On October 31, 2018, the FDA released a policy statement that they had “permitted marketing, with special controls,” of the Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test through 23andMe (a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company) for 33 different variants within specific pharmacogenomic genes (CYP2C19, CYP2C9, CYP3A5, UGT1A1, DPYD, TPMT, SLC01B1, and CYP2D6) that may impact drug metabolism or response.6 As part of its review of this Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test, the FDA found that the company-provided data showed that the test is accurate and can correctly identify the 33 specific genetic variants. The FDA review also showed that the testing results were reproducible, and the test instructions and reports could be understood by consumers.

While the specific reports related to this testing are not yet available within 23andMe, this approval allows for greater oversight by the FDA with regard to the pharmacogenomics information provided through this company’s Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test. The FDA noted that this approval was only for adults age >185 and that consumers “should not use the test results to stop or change any medication.”6 Further, the FDA stated that the results of the direct-to-consumer test should be confirmed with independent pharmacogenomics testing before making any medical decision. Unfortunately, the FDA did not offer guidance on what would be an appropriate independent pharmacogenomics test, but it did provide a link to a list of FDA-approved nucleic acid–based tests, on which 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test is included.7

The FDA’s second statement. On November 1, 2018, the FDA issued a separate safety communication that cautioned clinicians and patients that most of the current commercially available testing platforms for pharmacogenomics have not been FDA-reviewed, meaning that they may lack clinical evidence supporting their use.8 Further, the FDA safety communication stated, “Changing drug treatment based on the results from such a genetic test could lead to inappropriate treatment decisions and potentially serious health consequences for the patient.”8

Taken together, these FDA statements appear to support pharmacogenomics testing with approval of the 23andMe’s Personal Genome Service Pharmacogenetic Reports test but warn that the testing results should not be used to make treatment decisions, and that they should be verified. However, the FDA does not offer any guidance on what an appropriate testing platform would be to confirm the results.

What the FDA advises

The FDA has provided some guidance to clinicians and patients regarding next steps for patients who are interested in having pharmacogenomics testing or who have already undergone testing. The FDA’s first point is that both clinicians and patients need to be aware that pharmacogenomics testing is not FDA-reviewed, that patients should discuss the results of their testing with their clinicians, and that they should not stop their medication based on the results of the testing. Additionally, the FDA recommends that clinicians and patients should be aware that any claims made by the testing companies regarding the specific effect of a medication may not be supported by evidence. Furthermore, the FDA strongly recommends that clinicians consult the FDA-approved drug label, or the label of the FDA-cleared or FDA-approved genetic test, for information regarding how genetic information should be used in making treatment decisions. The FDA recommends reviewing the Warning section, as well as the Indications and Usage, Dosage and Administration, or Use in Specific Populations sections of the FDA-approved drug labeling.

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