November 6, 2013

Mercy Medical Center implements genetic testing for heart patients

Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Cardiovascular Institute (MCI) now offer genetic testing as part of their standard of care for heart patients.

Another tool in the fight against heart disease, a comprehensive genetic cardiac panel test provides individualized drug metabolism and cardiovascular risk assessments. Both help Mercy cardiologists determine the right drug and the right dosage for each patient. Testing is done by a simple cheek swab and is covered by Medicare and most private insurance plans. 

Ahmed Sabe, MD, interventional cardiologist with MCI and medical director of Mercy Heart Center, believes there is great significance in genetic testing.

He says, “As one of the only practices in the Stark County area that offers this test, MCI physicians can deliver highly individualized treatment on multiple levels. Once we understand the genotype—or genetic make-up—of each heart patient, we can use this specialized information to guide cardiovascular therapy that’s designed to conform to a patient’s distinct characteristics.”

The MCI cardiac panel test consists of two elements. First, the drug metabolism of the CYP450 system allows physicians to determine if patients can properly metabolize Clopidogrel (Plavix®), Warfarin (Coumadin) and Beta Blockers. Cytochrome P450 2C19 (CYP2C19) enzyme is involved in the liver's metabolism of several critically important drugs like Plavix, an anti-blood clotting medication. According to a 2010 FDA announcement, about 2 to 14 percent of the population are poor metabolizers of Plavix based on CYP2C19 function. These patients do not effectively convert Plavix to its active form because of low CYP2C19 activity, which reduces the drug’s effectiveness as a preventative therapy for heart attacks, unstable angina, stroke and cardiovascular death.

MCI joins leading health care providers nationwide in testing all patients on cardiovascular medication for this genetic variant.

The second element of this test is the cardiovascular risk assessment. Dr. Sabe explains that many different studies have shown that people with these gene variants carry double or even triple the risk of death from heart attack or stroke compared to people with normal metabolism. Genetic testing can help identify those at higher risk, enabling physicians to adjust their treatment.

"Adding cardiac panel genetic testing to our process is in the best interest of heart patients because it can improve outcomes,” Dr. Sabe says. “Genomic screening gives us critical information we need to create individual treatment plans."

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