When RBC Insurance Services Inc. began offering pharmacogenetic testing to its group benefits plan sponsors and began a clinical study of the issue in relation to biologic drugs recently, it did so with a few things in mind.

“There’s a number of issues we’re looking at as we consider how to approach addressing those issues, some of them being the rate of adverse drug reactions every year in Canada and wanting to look at an approach that might have the opportunity to reduce those,” says Julie Gaudry, senior director of group insurance at RBC Insurance.

Among the considerations was the possibility of reducing costs for plan sponsors, says Gaudry, who notes the added potential of the clinical study since it addresses biologic drugs for autoimmune conditions.

Read: A look at one company’s experience with pharmacogenetic testing

“That class of drugs alone . . . represents a disproportionate amount of the overall drug costs. So biologics make up the highest share of our total drug claims costs in private plans — the research shows about 25 per cent. And it’s also fast growing,” she says, noting the potential to reduce wasted drug spending.

“If, perhaps, a person is not on the right medication for them, the opportunity for wastage [exists] because the drug is ineffective. Or perhaps other types of costs and negative health impacts, if there’s adverse reactions to such a drug, is just going to be that much more amplified under the biologic drug category because they are such expensive medications.”

The study, which involves eligible plan members contacted by RBC Insurance and its partner, Personalized Prescibing Inc., is still in its early days and will take time to yield results, says Gaudry. She notes that with the testing available at a preferred price of $299, plan members not involved in the study have already been trying it out. The testing is available for free to those participating in the study.

Read: Pharmacogenetic testing a growing area as pilot projects, research get underway

“I think, as we begin to see utilization and get some experience and perform analytics on the results that we see in terms of utilization and the metrics that our partner at Personalized Prescribing Inc. will be able to analyze on our behalf, we’ll be able to see the opportunity there. Might we want to consider it as an option in the future to be an eligible expense under our drug plans or under our health and dental coverage? Might we want to consider studies, as some of the other carriers have done, looking at the implications on disability claims experience?” says Gaudry.

“There is definitely opportunity for us to think about what’s next. But we do want to make sure that we take the time to understand the research, know where the opportunity lies and get more learning out of this first approach before we take steps to do more.”

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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