New digital platform a game-changer for drug allergies

New digital platform a game-changer for drug allergies

The Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) has launched "Phukphan" as a digital platform to collect the results of genetic tests that determine how people respond to drugs, in a field known as pharmacogenomics.

This new centralised system will help doctors prescribe medications and plan treatments more accurately for each patient and is expected to help prevent severe drug allergies.

Dr Yongyot Thummavudhi, the department's director-general, said the platform is a joint project between the DMS and Mahidol University.

It allows for the test results to be accessed by doctors, pharmacists, the laboratory staff who runs the tests and report the results, and the owners of the genetic samples.

The platform serves as a convenient way for doctors to quickly and accurately use the results to treat patients. More than 10 hospitals are now linked to it, he said.

Dr Yongyot said this kind of testing is important because some 15% of Thais, or 9.7 million people, have drug allergies.

"Having the results of the pharmacogenomics testing before prescribing medicines can reduce serious side effects by 90%.

"In addition, knowing which drug patients are allergic to will help the government save treatment costs for people with allergies to various drugs, which are estimated to cost 250 million baht a year," Dr Yongyot said.

He said the results can take up to a week but can benefit a patient their whole lifetime.

The department now offers four pharmacogenomics tests which include checking the HLA-B*58:01 gene for people who use allopurinol for gout, the HLA-B*15:02 gene for those who take carbamazepine for seizures, the HLA-B*57:01 gene for patients on abacavir for HIV, and the N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2) gene for tuberculosis patients using Isoniazid.

So far, more than 40,000 people have taken the tests.

Dr Yongyot said the Phukphan platform can be connected to government-run apps that store health records, like the Mor Prom app created by the Department of Mental Health and Health Link, a cloud-based system.

The platform can also be connected to hospital systems for quick access.

Currently, the cost of genetic allergy testing is covered by the universal health care scheme, the social security fund, and the medical benefits afforded to government officials, he said.

This year the department is focused on getting more hospitals to use the app nationwide.

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