Secretary of Veterans Affairs praises Sanford partnership

Sanford Health's free genetic test is one way companies are helping veterans

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie stands at a podium in a full ballroom during a press conference for the Sanford Health/Veterans Affairs PHASeR program announcement.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie lifted up Sanford Health as a national example of businesses making a difference for veterans.

Sanford’s free genetic testing program known as PHASeR is one way companies are helping veterans, Wilkie wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner published Aug. 29.

“The partnerships that the VA is developing with those companies will help us serve even more veterans this way and give these companies a front-row seat as this revolution unfolds,” Wilkie wrote. “The goal of the Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships is simple: collaborate with companies that have a specific area of expertise that helps us innovate and deliver modern health care, through modern means, to veterans.”

Veterans genetic testing launched this year

In March, Sanford Health and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a program that will provide pharmacogenetic testing to U.S. veterans at no cost to veterans or taxpayers.

It’s part of an innovative partnership to improve patient care and lower costs related to adverse reactions to medications. The donor-funded program will initially enroll cancer survivors. Eventually, it will expand to up to 250,000 U.S. veterans at 125 sites by 2022. It launched this year at a pilot site in Durham, North Carolina.

The testing program, PHASeR (Pharmacogenomics Action for Cancer Survivorship), is funded by a $25 million gift from philanthropist Denny Sanford and a matching fundraising effort from Sanford Health. The test can help determine which medications will be most effective for patients, improving access to appropriate treatments and reducing adverse drug reactions. Research from the National Institutes of Health shows drug complications and side effects cost up to $30 billion per year.

Wilkie spoke to a full room during the news conference March 12 at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“The pharmacogenetic testing that we are going to be using as a result of Mr. Sanford’s generosity is critical for our nation’s veterans,” he said.

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