In a move which is set to improve the nation’s health, Feisal Nahaboo—founder and CEO of visionary pharmacy group Alitam—has today announced plans to roll out a cutting-edge pharmacogenomics service within Alitam pharmacies, headed by the highly esteemed Alitam pharmacist, and one of the field’s leading pioneers, Professor Mark Ledwidge.

Entrepreneur Feisal Nahaboo, founder and CEO of pharmacy group Alitam, has today announced plans to roll out a cutting-edge pharmacogenomics service within its pharmacies across the UK and Ireland. It is planned that more than 500 pharmacies led by Alitam across the UK and Ireland will offer the revolutionary service within the next three years, and which will deliver ‘precision medicine’ tailored to a patient’s individual genetic makeup.

This, it is claimed, will significantly reduce the number of people who have to be admitted to hospital through harmful drug-gene interactions. The launch of the new service will be headed by highly esteemed Alitam pharmacist Professor Mark Ledwidge (BSc Pharm, PhD, DBS, MPSI), one of pharmacogenomics’ leading pioneers. Such a futuristic, yet shortly implementable, service sits at the heart of Nahaboo’s vision for Alitam, the 100-plus store ‘Pharmacy of the Future’ that will build a healthcare service focused on preventative medicine rather than reactive and more costly, disease treatment

With NHS waiting lists now at an all-time high of 6million for routine operations and treatments, this initiative will benefit people across the UK and Ireland while relieving pressure on hospitals and GP surgeries.

A buzzword in the pharmacy and medical worlds, pharmacogenomics is a rapidly expanding field of research that studies how a person’s genes affect how they respond to medications. With research showing that 40 per cent of a patient’s response to a drug is led by their genes, pharmacogenomics is being heralded as a revolution in medicine, yielding crucial insights into disease treatment that promise better outcomes for patients and reduced hospitalisations.

Nahaboo says that out of all sectors of the UK’s healthcare system, it is pharmacy where the insights from pharmacogenomics will be most applicable. He said: “Pharmacists are already, by the nature of their job, well versed in drug-drug interactions (how one particular drug might react with another) and drug-disease interactions. What we’re looking at now, through the latest genomic sequencing, is how a drug will be processed by an individual. How will they metabolise it? Which dosage should we use? Which side effects are they likely to experience? Will the medicine work or not? We’ve all known for some time there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to healthcare. This is the proof.”

Speaking about the appointment of Professor Ledwidge, he added: “Bringing Mark Ledwidge into the Alitam fold was vitally important. Not only is he a highly respected community pharmacist in Cork with an academic role in the School of Medicine at University College Dublin but also entrepreneurial and caring in his practice with an interest in the Pharmacy of the Future concept.

On first meeting we talked at length about his awareness of the need to support the NHS and HSE as they face enormous waiting lists, relieving the burden on secondary healthcare services where possible, and generally empowering people to be in better health. This is precisely the Alitam mandate: to deliver the kind of personalised, preventative healthcare through pharmacies which will increase life expectancy and quality of life throughout our communities.

I headhunted Professor Ledwidge based on his reputation as a leader with an interest in pushing the boundaries of pharmacy and pharmacogenomics. I immediately knew pharmacogenomics was the perfect fit for Alitam pharmacies; that it would form a cornerstone of our Pharmacy of the Future concept.”

Professor Mark Ledwidge is the latest in a string of high-profile appointments for Alitam, following the announcement earlier this month of former Credit Suisse MD Zachary Brech as the Group’s new chief financial officer (CFO), and Antony Isaacs, former MD of HSBC Global Banking and Markets, as a consultant to the Alitam board.

They join an already impressive management team including such big city figures as Sir Ken Olisa OBE and Dhruv Patel OBE.

Professor Ledwidge is an adjunct Professor at the School of Medicine at University College Dublin, while also running his Cork pharmacy practice. He was Co-Chair of the National Pharmacy Reference Group in Ireland and has been a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Human Medicines for the HPRA (Health Products Regulatory Authority).

He is also a man who is clearly driven by a desire to make medical treatments more effective. As co-founder of healthcare and medicine development company Solvotrin Therapeutics, for instance, he has helped to address the long-standing issue of poor absorption, and poor tolerance, of iron supplements within the body. He also developed ActiveIron®, a successful formulation of iron supplements which has superior absorption and tolerability to the gold standard iron salts. Professor Ledwidge’s team has successfully commercialised this product and an expanding range of vitamins and mineral products.

Nahaboo says that by embracing pharmacogenomics, Alitam will be improving the health of the community in hitherto unexplored ways. He said: “This is where Mark’s offering is so exciting. Pharmacogenomics is underused: it’s employed in cancer care and psychiatry, and the regulatory bodies have an ever-growing watchlist of drugs checked for drug-gene interactions.

However, the remit is so much wider. This is a new frontier for the pharmacy and medical community. I believe that within five years, patients will walk into pharmacies, hand over a script and ask their pharmacist to look up their genome and check for drug interactions. Think of the pain and suffering that can be avoided this way, not to mention the huge numbers of needless hospital admissions

Pharmacogenomics is just one part of Nahaboo’s ambitious plan to bring a range of health services under the same roof in state-of-the-art wellness and medical centres dubbed high-street ‘Super Pharmacies’ and ‘Alitam Advanced Community Pharmacies’, and comprising more than 500 in total. The entrepreneur, who founded Alitam using the same revolutionary overnight multiple merger model (OMMM) he created to launch Xeinadin Accountancy Groups, envisages that Super Pharmacies will appear on the High Street in the next two to three years, with the first of these flagship stores set to be opened in Dublin, Belfast, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The concept will, he says, be ‘a slow and gradual build’, aligned to a decade-long vision. He said: “It’s a ten-year vision. The creation of the Super Pharmacies is a multi-billion-pound investment project, and a significant number of private equity companies, large ones, have approached Alitam to look at investing in the model.

Today, Alitam is immediately focused on utilising the clinical skills of trusted community pharmacists, who are introducing more GP-type services instore. “By becoming independent prescribers, our clinically able pharmacists—who often treat three generations of the same family—can efficiently diagnose and treat many minor ailments such as sore throats, run clinical checks for conditions such as diabetes, and provide repeat prescriptions.

This frees up GPs to focus on patients presenting with more complex issues. And it drastically reduces waiting times for patients who, otherwise, may face worsening conditions. In fact, our research shows that these waiting lists can be reduced by as much as 50% if the skills of community pharmacists are fully utilised.”

In these post-pandemic times, the appeal of the Alitam model is obvious to many. People are now more acutely aware of their health and desirous to take what steps they can to improve their wellbeing and prevent disease, highly aware that our healthcare systems are not fit for purpose. With the Pharmacy of the Future, Alitam is offering a ‘one-stop health shop’ which will cater to everyone in the family, all at once.

Highly regulated clinical and wellbeing services will all be accessible to communities in a convenient location, staffed by health professionals they know and trust. Nahaboo added: “The people of the UK and Ireland deserve this, our amazing healthcare professionals deserve this, and the economy will benefit from the upsurge in health in workers. In the short term, while the pharmacogenomics service is being designed and readied for roll-out within Alitam pharmacies, services such as GP-style consultations (using an instore independent prescriber) will be offered, at pace, in key locations throughout the UK and Ireland.”

Nahaboo is planning to release news of the launch of these new clinical services in pharmacies on March 22. “We predict that ‘pharmacogenomics’ will soon be the word on everyone’s lips,” he added. “We will very quickly see the difference this makes to the health of generations of families, up and down the land.”

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