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Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Bill to Expand Genetic Testing & Improve Patient Care Passes Assembly Committee

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Creates Pharmacogenomics Commission to Examine Benefits of Increasing Drug-Gene Testing in NJ

The Assembly Health & Senior Services Committee has advanced legislation sponsored Senator Joe Pennacchio creating a commission to explore how expanding pharmacogenomics, also known as “drug-gene testing,” could lead to better care and health outcomes for patients in New Jersey.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio’s legislation to explore how expanding pharmacogenomics, also known as ‘drug-gene testing,’ could lead to better care and health outcomes for patients in New Jersey has advanced in the Assembly. (©iStock)

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how a person’s genetic makeup influences the effectiveness or toxicity of medications.

“Genetic testing is already a common standard of care in cancer treatment, as genetic mutations play a role in 5 to 10 percent of all cancers. In fact, certain treatments can be tailored to match a specific mutation found in a patient’s tumor,” Senator Pennacchio (R-26) explained. “Medical professionals can also use genetic testing to treat and identify a wide variety of conditions – and prevent potentially dangerous adverse reactions or side effects to certain prescriptions.”

The legislation, SJR-115/AJR-181, was approved by the Senate in a 35-0 vote in March and referred to the Assembly.

“I was glad to partner with Chairman Vitale on this in the Senate, and I’m encouraged that our colleagues in the Assembly have shown that they understand the importance of this effort,” said Pennacchio. “By establishing a commission to explore pharmacogenomics, New Jersey can discover new ways to use drug-gene testing to cure illnesses, prevent side effects, and create treatment plans that are unique to each patient,” Pennacchio added.

As established by Sen. Pennacchio’s legislation, SJR-115, the New Jersey Pharmacogenomics Commission would be charged with examining the following issues:

  • Costs and benefits related to Pharmacogenomic testing now and in the future;
  • How implementing Pharmacogenomics may benefit prescribers, patients, and the State;
  • Various applications for Pharmacogenomics outside of medicine, such as combating the opioid crisis and others;
  • The relationship between Pharmacogenomics applications in Personalized Medicine;
  • The results of previous studies on prescribing medicines and treatments based on Pharmacogenomic science;
  • Methods of educating patients and prescribers on prescribing medicine and treatment based on genetic makeup; and
  • The relationship of Pharmacogenomics in the reduction of the number of deaths, disabilities, and hospitalization from Adverse Drug Events.

The legislation also requires the commission to hold two public hearings; one in North Jersey and one in South Jersey, no later than six months after the commission is organized.

“New Jersey used to be known as the pharmaceutical capital of America and we still have a number of top quality hospitals and academic research centers right here in our state,” Senator Pennacchio said. “We need to do more to encourage medical innovation in New Jersey – not just for the benefit of our economy, but for the benefit of the millions of people who live here and the many more who come here for quality care. There is no reason why the next big breakthrough can’t happen right in our own backyard.”

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