Precision medicine is no longer just a “buzzword” in the medical community, but it’s something that patients want, and they want it now. Grocery giant, Kroger, aims to lead the frontier, starting with a new initiative with diagnostics company, Myriad Genetics.
The consumer health division, Kroger Health, has partnered with the Utah-based company to provide select Prescription Plan members with a chance to take a pharmacogenomic test known as GeneSight. This advanced pharmacogenomics platform helps guide treatment decisions for patients with moderate to severe depression.
Less than half of patients with moderate to severe depression do not respond to their first medication, culminating in frustration, growing medical bills and unmanaged symptoms. These effects can even be felt in the workplace through lost productivity.
“We are committed to helping people combat this debilitating disease, and we’re proud to launch this pilot program,” said Colleen Lindholz, President of Kroger Health, in a statement. “This test can help patients escape the frustrating process of trying multiple medications in the hopes of finding one that works.”
Across participating Kroger pharmacies, patients who have failed one or more antidepressant medication prescriptions will be informed about GeneSight through their Kroger pharmacist or by mail. According to Myriad, the test can rank 56 common depression drugs based on predicted gene-drug interactions which may impact the safety and efficacy of the drug. Drugs that ‘match’ the genetic profile of a patient may be safer and more effective than drugs that do not match.
Results from a randomized control trial demonstrated 50 percent improvement in patient remission when patients were switched from ill-suited drugs to better-matched drugs. Kroger Health and Myriad hope to see these improvements during this initial rollout.
“Our partnership with Kroger Health centers on a shared vision to help more people with depression get well sooner,” said Chip Parkinson, Executive Vice President of Payer Markets and Reimbursement at Myriad Genetics. “Additionally, we believe the GeneSight test will help Kroger achieve significant cost savings resulting from decreased drug spend, health care costs and enhanced employee productivity.”
As consumers become more invested in their health, retailers have kept pace by offering at-home genetic test kits like 23AndMe, leaving it up to the consumer to learn more about their risk for certain diseases. Global Market Insights research predicts the world genetic testing market will exceed $22 billion by 2024.
Meanwhile, other pharmacies are expanding their suite of healthcare services, bringing direct patient care closer to consumers. Among the early adopters is CVS Health, who acquired insurance provider, Aetna, last year, and has recently added dieticians to their roster of on-site healthcare specialists. Competitor pharmacy, Walgreens, also wants to make healthcare more accessible to patients by partnering with VillageMD to open up primary care clinics next to pharmacies. Walgreens, CVS and Amazon are also rolling out prescription drug delivery services to eliminate trips to the pharmacy altogether.
Kroger Health’s partnership with Myriad Genetics may mark the beginning of a race to bring precision medicine closer to consumers.