December 23, 2019

Meet Eric Matey, Pharm.D., R.Ph.: moving drug-gene testing into clinical care

By Sharon Rosen
Eric Matey, Pharm.D., R.Ph.

If you’ve picked up a prescription from your local pharmacy, you may have spoken with a pharmacist about how and when to take a medication or its potential side effects. At Mayo Clinic, pharmacists perform these same tasks, but their role extends much further by helping move genomics discoveries into clinical care.  

“Our pharmacy team has played a key role in Mayo Clinic’s pioneering efforts to move pharmacogenomics, how a person's genetics affect their responses to medications, into the clinic,” says Eric Matey, Pharm.D., R.Ph., a pharmacist working with the Center for Individualized Medicine. “We not only consult with physicians, but also have helped develop the infrastructure to ensure that patients have the best medication experience.”

Involved in every step from the lab to the clinic

Over the last two decades, genomics research has uncovered drug-gene interactions that explain why some patients may not respond to a medication or whether they are at risk for harmful, sometimes life-threatening side effects.

“We were faced with the challenge of how to move these discoveries into patient care so that clinicians can have the information they need at their fingertips when prescribing medications,” explains Dr. Matey.

Beginning in 2017, Dr. Matey and his pharmacy colleagues worked with the Center for Individualized Medicine Pharmacogenomics Program on the RIGHT 10K study, in which 10,000 participants had pre-emptive pharmacogenomics testing.

“In 2018, we completed the task of adding these results to each participant’s electronic medical record. Our pharmacy team developed a decision support tool to help physicians select the right medication for each patient based on their pharmacogenomics test results and other clinical factors. The tool helps alert physicians if there is a potential drug-gene interaction, allowing them to adjust the dosage for a medication or choose an alternative treatment,” explains Dr. Matey.

As part of this effort, Dr. Matey and his team trained more than 400 pharmacists across Mayo Clinic. They used a Train the Trainer model, educating an initial group of pharmacists who then trained colleagues to create a pharmacy workforce fluent in interpreting pharmacogenomics information.

“We now have pharmacists in every medical specialty ready to answer questions for both physicians and patients,” adds Dr. Matey. “We’re one of the few institutions that have implemented pharmacogenomics into practice on such a large scale.”

Personal experience sparked a passion for pharmacy

Dr. Matey’s initial interest in how medications work came from his own personal experience. As a young boy in Ghana, he contracted malaria and was amazed at how fast medication relieved his symptoms.

“I came into the hospital with severe nausea and fever. But the symptoms went away after being given chloroquine. That was my first experience with how medications can treat illness,” says Dr. Matey.

His interest in pharmacology grew after working in a local hospital medication dispensary.  

“When I came to the United States for college, I chose to become a pharmacist. It’s exciting to now be a part of the team that is taking pharmacology to the next level, using advances in genomics to individualize care.”

According to Dr. Matey, an important part of his work is to share Mayo Clinic’s experience with other institutions to ensure even better care for all patients.

“We are able to share the lessons we’ve learned and how we’ve overcome challenges by bringing together a team of experts across disciplines to provide physicians and other health care providers with the information they need to select the right medication and prevent serious adverse effects for every patient.”

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Tags: #drug-gene interactions, #RIGHT 10K study, center for individualized medicine, Center for Individualized Medicine Pharmacogenomics Program, Eric Matey, Genetic Testing, genomics, individualized medicine, mayo clinic, pharmacogenomics, pharmacy, Precision Medicine

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