VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announces precision medicine testing initiative with Sanford Health

Veterans will access the test at their local VA facility, and Sanford Health will process the tests at its South Dakota-based Imagenetics facility—which is overseen by former VA Secretary David Shulkin. (Sanford Health)

WASHINGTON—Veterans will have no-cost access to genetic testing that can indicate how their body will respond to certain drugs as part of a precision medicine partnership between the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Sanford Health.

The program will launch at a pilot site in Durham, North Carolina, and will initially enroll cancer survivors, officials said. It will expand to up to 250,000 U.S. veterans at 125 sites by 2022.

PHASeR, or the Pharmacogenomics Action for Cancer Survivorship, is funded by a $25 million gift from philanthropist Denny Sanford and matching fundraising from Sanford Health.

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The announcement comes just months after David Shulkin, M.D., the former secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, took on the role of chief innovation officer at the Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based health system. That role included leading initiatives to advance the health system's work in research, as well as its precision medicine initiative called Imaginetics and the Sanford Chip, Profile and World Clinic.

RELATED: Healthcare Roundup—David Shulkin gets a new gig

Shulkin is also a strategic adviser on Sanford's national growth strategy.

Veterans will access the test at their local VA facility, and Sanford Health will process the tests at its South Dakota-based Imagenetics facility, officials said.

The test results will help physicians with clinical decision-making for a variety of drugs, including those for mental health, cardiovascular disease and pain management. The National Institutes of Health estimates that inappropriate treatments and adverse drug reactions cost up to $30 billion a year.

"This testing will help providers at the VA prescribe the most appropriate medications at the right dose," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

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