The study, published today in the Journal of Pharmacogenomics, identifies key issues raised by South Asian participants in the UK that may impact how patients use this DNA test. The research was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Barts Biomedical Research Center and the Barts Charity.
Despite making up 10% of the UK population, people of South Asian descent have historically been underrepresented in genetic research and clinical trials.
In particular, British Bangladeshis and British Pakistanis have higher rates of certain health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and taking multiple medications for these conditions increases the risk of side effects.
Using DNA testing to personalize medication regimens has been shown to reduce the risk of side effects and improve drug effectiveness, but these new genetic tools are little discussed outside of health settings.
This study brought together people from the British Bangladeshi and British Pakistani communities to identify what they considered to be the most important factors involved in developing clinical services that undertake genetic testing, infusion, to adjust drug use or find optimal drug use.
Researchers led by Dr. Emma Magavern and the Genes & Health community engagement team at Queen Mary University of London conducted focus groups that included existing participants from the Genes & Health team.
64% of participants were female, 26% were born in the UK or Europe, 52% were born in Bangladesh and 17% were born in Pakistan. 36% said they had a university degree. Simultaneous translation in Urdu and Bengali was available to all participants.
Research shows that trust is the most important factor in encouraging British South Asians to take up genetic testing.
General practitioners are considered trusted healthcare professionals who can refer individuals to genetic testing, whether for research purposes or to ensure their medications are optimized.
Participants also believed that personalized prescribing using genetic information could build trust and help people take their medications more often as prescribed.
Director of Funding and Impact at Barts Charity, Victoria King, said: “As one of the UK’s most diverse areas, East London has unique healthcare challenges. We are proud to have supported this work, which could lead to more people in our local community with South Asian heritage accessing personalised treatment for their conditions. These treatments tend to be more effective and cause fewer side effects, meaning people can live longer, healthier lives.”