Major motion picture ‘Gattaca’, a mid 90’s cult classic, depicts a dystopian future in which genetically-enhanced elites rule over lesser “organic” humans. Some 25 years after its release, the scientific advancements underpinning Gattaca’s theme have become a reality.
One such example is pharmacogenetics, the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. This new field combines pharmacology and genomics to develop medications tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.
Currently available drugs are “one size fits all,” but they don’t work the same way for everyone. This makes it hard to predict who’ll benefit from a medication, and who will experience negative side effects. But pharmacogenomics is now allowing the development of bespoke drugs to treat a wide range of illnesses.
Plan sponsors and insurers are increasingly wading into the waters of pharmacogenetic testing. In 2017, Sun Life partnered with the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health for a pilot project that offered pharmacogenetic testing to plan members on disability leave due to a mental injury. After seeing very positive results, it embedded pharmacogenetic testing into its disability management toolkit.