The test is able to determine which medication is the most helpful in reducing the risk of having another stroke as well as treating those that have already occurred. Clopidogrel, an antiplatelet medication, is given to the majority of the year’s 85,000 victims in order to reduce the risk of a subsequent heart attack.
However, up to a third of patients do not see any beneficial effects from this treatment and, as a result, are at an increased risk of experiencing additional strokes.
This is due to the fact that in order for clopidogrel to operate, it must first be metabolized by the liver, and certain patients are missing the specific enzyme that makes the medicine effective.
Before this discovery, medical professionals had no way of recognizing these people.
Genetic testing can reveal whether or not an individual is a “non-responder” to clopidogrel treatment. They could then be provided with an alternate treatment, such as a mixture of aspirin and dipyridamole, for instance.
The testing of patients’ genes is being done for the first time by a group working for the NHS Tayside in Scotland. Over four hundred individuals have now had the genetic blood test performed on them.
Dr. Alex Doney, who specializes in treating people who have had strokes at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, is in charge of the program.
He has high hopes that an investigation being conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence would back expanded gene testing for patients.
The procedure that is being carried out by his team can deliver a result within a few days of taking blood from a patient who has suffered a stroke, and it has the potential to help approximately 30,000 individuals each year.
According to Dr. Doney, “this is the beginning of personalized medicine,” which is a medical practice in which easily available information on a patient’s particular genetic make-up is used to make an increasing number of the medications that the patient takes more effective and safe.
In the meantime, Genedrive, a diagnostics firm with its headquarters at Manchester University, has created a test that makes use of the data obtained by swabbing the interior of a patient’s mouth.
The sample is analyzed using a compact desktop machine, and the result is produced around three hours later. Genedrive anticipates that its product will be approved by the relevant medical authorities sometime in the spring.
This test is twice as expensive as the one that is now being used in Tayside, but David Budd, the CEO of Genedrive, claims that his company’s technology is not only quicker, but it will also lessen the amount of strain that is placed on already overburdened NHS labs.
He stated that “the test may be carried out by a senior nurse,” and he added that “our test has been favorably received by hospitals willing to adopt our technology if we get approval.”