The utility of pharmacogenetic testing has exponentially increased within the past few years.
The utility of pharmacogenetic testing has exponentially increased within the past few years. Simultaneously, the roles and services of community pharmacists have expanded beyond medication dispensing to include wellness screenings, preventive care, immunizations, point-of-care testing, and pharmacogenetic testing. As precision medicine and pharmacogenetics progress, how are pharmacists in different fields, and with diverse backgrounds and experience, going to be ready? What educational resources and tools will be available for them? How will community pharmacists find the right educational tools appropriate for their needs?
For the typical community pharmacists, selecting the right educational resources can be challenging when they are not sure where to begin.1 To start, PharmGKB is a comprehensive database for finding specific pharmacogenetic information for drugs and genes. Pharmacists can use this free resource to look up a drug or a gene and view dosing guidance, labeling information, and clinical annotations, if available. From there, they can access the clinical studies and references to support their recommendations for patients and medical providers.
For pharmacists searching for more intensive or personalized training in pharmacogenetics, we recommend they make selections based on their individual specifications as clinicians or business owners. Some pharmacists may desire intensive continuing education (CE) courses on the science of pharmacogenetics, including translating the genotype to the phenotype. What if you do not know what an allele is but you have over 20 years of experience counseling patients about drug-drug interactions and you just want to know how to incorporate testing with your medication therapy management? In general, if you are already involved with a genetic lab, these labs provide training and education on their products, as well as on the concepts behind them. This article summarizes a few options for meeting the needs of community pharmacists.
Educational resources on pharmacogenetics range from free online resources without CE to paid comprehensive certification courses that combine hours of home-study CE with live CE. Regarding free online resources, The University of Southern California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences created PharmGenEd, a free online curriculum that includes Web-based courses on the principles and concepts, clinical applications for specific disease states, and ethical/ economic issues of pharmacogenetics.2 For clinical pharmacists in community pharmacies, these resources are very comprehensive in terms of clinical application for patients. These informative resources provide a detailed background on the clinical studies and evidence behind the Clinical Pharmacogenetics Implementation Consortium guidelines.
In addition to the above, the National Human Genome Research Institute created The Genetics/Genomics Competency Center, a free online collection of materials for self-directed learning in genetics and genomics, with a section on pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics. The website is like a database of available educational resources—free and paid.3
Certification courses in pharmacogenetics are now available for all pharmacists. Be mindful that many of these courses can be expensive and require 16 to 20 hours of home-study CE with 2 or 3 days of live training. Owners of community pharmacies have to decide whether this would be time well spent. Perhaps owners would be wise to send a pharmacist who interacts with patients.
Properly assessing the curriculum is necessary to ensure that topics are relevant to community pharmacists. Are the courses presented by community pharmacists who have implemented successful pharmacogenetics programs in their communities? Do the courses offer workshops on business models, as well, or mainly their clinical application? Is it necessary for a community pharmacist to learn how to translate a gene? Does the curriculum prepare a pharmacist to speak to patients about their results? Would it be helpful to talk to community physicians about these new services? How do you get physician buy-in for these programs? These are important questions to consider as you review certification courses.
The University of Florida (UF) Annual Precision Medicine Conference has a notable certification course. The conference is led by practitioners from different backgrounds and provides training for pharmacists in academia to support the education of future pharmacists. The UF certification requires home-study CE credits, 2 days of live training, and an optional half-day for faculty.4
Manchester University and RxGenomix also have a comprehensive certification course that is a combination of 16 hours of home study and recorded program activity, which is provided entirely online.5 Furthermore, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, is launching a national tour for its Test2Learn Community-Based Pharmacogenetics Program. The program is a combination of home study and 1 day of live training, totaling 20 hours of CE.6
All the programs discussed here should be offered to practicing pharmacists and pharmacy students.
THE PHARMACOGENETICS CENTER OF EXCELLENCE
The Pharmacogenetics Center of Excellence (PGxCE) is a nonprofit organization composed of medical providers, community pharmacists, and nonmedical members who have developed a unique set of online educational courses and resources. PGxCE has separate educational training courses tailored to the needs of community pharmacists, pharmacist owners, medical providers, student pharmacists, and consumers. PGxCE has modules designed for business, as well, including business plans, marketing strategies, and physician detailing.7
These resources are just a few of the increasing number of educational resources for community pharmacists. Before a pharmacy commits to a certification course or a long program, it must truly understand its educational needs. Most importantly, all pharmacists must be competent and educated in a manner that benefits their practices and profession. With pharmacist leaders in pharmacogenetics, such as Dr. Amina Abubakar, collaborating with the FDA and the White House, federal representatives are saying pharmacists are ready, educated, and trained to make precision medicine a reality, so we must all be ready.
Dr. Holliday and Dr. Irvin are PGY1 community residents from the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Their practice site is Rx Clinic Pharmacy, where they work closely with Amina Abubakar, PharmD, AAHIVP; Olivia Bentley, PharmD, AAHIVP, CFTS; and the Pharmacogenetic Center of Excellence.