Pharmacy U

John Papastergiou’s groundbreaking research wins prestigious international prize

Papastergiou poster pic

John Papastergiou and his team’s groundbreaking pharmacogenomics research project won first prize at the prestigious FIP World Congress of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences 2016 in Buenos Aires. “This was incredible international recognition of our work,” said Papastergiou. “The judges felt that it was revolutionary and innovative.” The prize was presented at an awards ceremony on the second last evening of the conference. “It was a huge surprise,” said the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist. “It really speaks to the great work that is being done in Canada.”

Here’s some background on the team’s work:

A talented group of community pharmacists has set out to be the first to evaluate the feasibility of implementing personalized medication services into community practice and to quantify the type of drug therapy problems identified as a result of screening. In order to do this, the team partnered with an industry leader in pharmacogenomics, GeneYouIn Inc.

The unique collaboration between community pharmacist and geneticists led to the initiation of the ICANPIC (Innovative Canadian Pharmacogenomic Screening Initiative in Community Pharmacy) Study. The full results of the study are expected to be published later this year, but a snapshot of the preliminary results was presented at this years’ Canadian Pharmacists Conference in Calgary.

The study was designed as open-label, non-randomized, and observational. Two community pharmacies in Toronto, Ont. offered pharmacogenomic screening as part of their professional services program. Before initiation, participating pharmacists received structured, comprehensive training in pharmacogenetics. Pharmacists then facilitated voluntary subject enrolment among patients who they believed would benefit from screening and met inclusion criteria. Eligible patients received a simple buccal swab followed by DNA analysis using PillCheck®.

PillCheck® is Geneyouin’s proprietary genotyping assay that translates genomic data and generates a personalized, evidence-based, report that provides insight into patients’ inherited drug metabolic profile. Upon receiving the report, pharmacists invited patients back to the clinic for interpretation of the results. Clinically significant drug therapy problems were identified and recommendations for medication optimization were forwarded to the primary care physician.

One hundred patients were enrolled in the study.  Average age was 57.4 years, and patients were taking a mean of 5.6 chronic medications. Pharmacists cited the most common reasons for testing as ineffective therapy (44.6%), to address an adverse reaction (35.5%), and to guide initiation of therapy (11.8%). An average of 1.3 drug therapy problems were identified per patient. Pharmacist recommendations included change in therapy (57.1%), dose adjustment (14.3%), discontinuation of a drug (7.1%), and increased monitoring (19.6%). Generally, physician feedback was positive, but did reveal an opportunity for a broader understanding of the technology.

The results of this novel study highlight the readiness of community pharmacists to adopt pharmacogenetic screening into practice and their ability to leverage this technology to positively impact medication management. The team’s findings suggest that community pharmacists are ideally suited to offer both personalized medication services and interpretation of genomic results.


John Papastergiou, BSc, BSc Phm is head of the research study examining how to help more patients achieve enhanced outcomes by using their prescription meds more effectively. He is also is a pharmacist-owner of two Shoppers Drug Marts in Toronto, Assistant Professor at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, and Adjunct Professor at the School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo.