Health Services

Kroger partners with Myriad Genetics on genetic testing pilot

The grocery chain is offering select Kroger Health Plan members access to Myriad’s GeneSight test, which analyzes specific genes as a way to predict the effectiveness of 56 common medications for depression

Kroger Health, the healthcare arm of the grocery store chain, has teamed up with genetic testing company Myriad Genetics, on a pilot meant to help employees receive personalized treatments for depression.

The Cincinnati, Ohio-based company is offering select Kroger Health Plan members access to Myriad’s GeneSight, which analyzes specific genes as a way to predict the effectiveness of 56 common medications for depression. This information can be used by clinicians to more effectively target treatments to help ease patient symptoms.

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that the GeneSight test was able to drive improvements in remission among depression patients who have failed at least one medication trial.

“Depression is a leading cause of disability and lost productivity in the United States, and only 40 percent of people reach remission after their first antidepressant medication,” Kroger Health President Colleen Lindholz said in a statement.

“We are committed to helping people combat this debilitating disease, and we’re proud to launch this pilot program. This test can help patients escape the frustrating process of trying multiple medications in the hopes of finding one that works.”

The pilot program, which will be available through hundreds of Kroger pharmacies across five states, will be offered to Kroger Health Plan members who have failed one or more antidepressant medications.

Myriad touts its test’s ability to help improve depression patient outcomes, thereby boosting employee productivity and reducing healthcare and drug spend.

Mirroring the efforts of competitors like Walmart and heading off efforts by Amazon-owned Whole Foods, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen has underscored the company’s interest in the health and wellness sector, especially in the concept of “food as medicine.”

In the company’s first quarter earnings call, McMullen said the company is in discussions with multiple healthcare providers for partnerships to use the grocery chain as an access point for healthy food and potential prescription diets.

As part of the effort, the company is working with health IT company AssureCare on a system called MedCompass to link loyalty card data to clinical and pharmacy data, giving clinicians insights into patient’s food habits.

Last year, the company started a partnership with Walgreens to offer Kroger products in the pharmacy chain’s locations.

Kroger has increasingly looked at its retail footprint as a delivery point for healthcare products and services. The company operates more than 200 retail clinic locations in stores as well as 2,200 pharmacies and has started to test out larger health initiatives like free public diabetes screening at its healthcare-focused locations.

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