More than 200 private clinics will start offering a gene test next month to better match patients with medicines they should take for chronic illnesses.
Launched by a company co-founded by Chinese University of Hong Kong and City University professors, the test will cover 211 drug types that are commonly used for seven chronic illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, mental illness and pain.
This comes as a University of Hong Kong Public Opinion Programme poll of 505 residents aged 30 or above released yesterday found 42 percent had chronic illness but 56 percent did not find their medicines effective.
Side effects could include headache, vomiting and fatigue, while a small number were readmitted to hospital because of worsening health conditions.
The pharmacogenomics test offered by Prenetics starts with a person's mouth swabbed for DNA samples. Results available within 48 hours help doctors identify what works best for someone.
The head of City University's Department of Biomedical Sciences, Michael Yang Mengsu, who co-founded Prenetics, said: "Due to genetic differences, two people can take the same dose of the same drug but respond in very different ways."
One third of individuals might have trouble in activating a drug in their bodies, another third could eliminate the drug before it has a chance to take effect, while the remaining third could find the drug working effectively.
"If these genetic variations are not considered for drug therapy, the consequences can range from unpleasant to fatal," Yang added.
Prenetics chief executive Danny Yeung said he believes the test, which costs from HK$3,000 to HK$5,000 depending on how many illnesses the test is to cover, is being used in Asia for the first time. But has been widely adopted in the United States and Europe.
The company has plans to launch another test one that checks cancer genes by the end of the year.