NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 9, 2005

The age of personalized medicine is on the way. Increasingly, experts say, therapies will be tailored for patients based on their genetic makeup or other medical measurements. That will allow people to obtain drugs that would work best for them and avoid serious side effects, says the New York Times.

Tailoring drugs to patients, however, can introduce problems for doctors, as well as drug makers. Transfused blood is an example. Many transfusion centers would love to have a single type of blood suitable for everyone, rather than having to keep different types in stock and worrying that severe problems may occur if the wrong type is transfused.

Still, many physicians, regulators, market analysts and pharmaceutical executives agree that despite the obstacles, personalized medicine is inevitable:

  • About 40 of the 50 psychiatrists at the Mayo Clinic already use genetic tests to help choose which drugs to prescribe.
  • And some companies are offering tests directly to consumers.
  • Scientists are finding numerous examples of variations in genes that help predict who will respond to a drug or who will suffer side effects.
  • Most drug companies now routinely collect DNA samples from patients in clinical trials to look for such markers.

In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidelines to encourage drug companies to pursue personalized medicine, and the agency is adding information about genetic tests to the labels of a few drugs.

But despite progress, many more years of work will be required before combinations of drugs and tests, sometimes called theranostics, could reach the market, says the Times.

Source: Andrew Pollack, "A Special Drug Just for You, at the End of a Long Pipeline, New York Times, November 8, 2005.

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