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Medco Boosts Personalized Medicine Efforts with DNA Direct Acquisition

By Turna Ray

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Medco Health Solutions has acquired DNA Direct this week in a bid to bring genetic testing guidance and utilization expertise to the pharmacy benefit manager's personalized medicine efforts.

Already a pioneer in incorporating pharmacogenetic testing into its PBM programs, Medco's decision to buy DNA Direct signals its intent to be a "one-stop shop" for payors and employers interested in using genetically guided medicine to make healthcare more efficient and lower costs.

By integrating DNA Direct's healthcare support services with its pharmacogenetic test offerings, "Medco intends to deliver a broader suite of precision health services, ranging from consumer education to clinical decision support," the PBM said in a statement released yesterday.

Medco, one of the largest PBMs in the US serving more than 60 million people, is already offering PGx testing services for widely prescribed drugs, such as warfarin and tamoxifen, to 200 customers serving 7 million lives. Last year, it launched the Genetics for Generics program, which aims to use genetic testing to increase healthcare savings in the administration of certain generic drugs.

"We had a choice — that we could build or we could acquire a company that already had customers and experience," Medco's Chief Scientific Officer Robert Epstein told GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication Pharmacogenomics Reporter this week. "We figured [DNA Direct] could accelerate our speed-to-market [and] they could provide us with more depth and breadth, allowing us to go beyond pharmacogenomics to the rest of genomics. They had a lot of scientific and clinical expertise with full-time genetic counselors on staff."

According to Epstein, in the two years since Medco has launched its personalized medicine program, the interest from customers has grown rapidly. "In the 15 years I've worked here, I've never seen a service take off like this," Epstein said.

Medco acquired DNA Direct with an eye toward expanding its personalized medicine service offerings to its existing customers and garnering new enrollees to the program.

San Francisco-based DNA Direct provides genetic utilization management and web-based decision support services to healthcare providers and payors. It also is the first genomics-focused company to garner accreditation from URAC, a Washington DC-based health care accrediting organization.

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

For a more detailed article on the acquisition and Medco's plans, please see this week's issue of Pharmacogenomics Reporter.

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