Tailor-made pharmacotherapy: Future developments and ethical challenges in the field of pharmacogenomics

Bioethics 18 (4):303–321 (2004)

Abstract

In this article ethical issues are discussed which play a role in pharmacogenetics. Developments in pharmacogenetics have a large impact on many different practices such as clinical trials, the practice of medicine and society at large. In clinical trials, questions rise regarding the exclusion of genetic subgroups that may be non- or poor-responders to the experimental drug. Also, the question is asked how pharmaceutical companies should deal with their growing knowledge about the relations between genetic variation and adverse effects. Moreover, pharmacogenetics may provide disease-specific predictive information which may have a significant impact on the relations between physicians, patients and their relatives in the practice of medicine. Here, issues also arise regarding responsibility of patients and physicians for health and disease. In the society at large, the high costs of new pharmacogenetic possibilities lead to questions concerning solidarity and fair distribution on a national as well as an international level. It is concluded that in the near future, ethical research should be focused on the themes responsibility, inclusion and exclusion and global justice.

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Annemarie Kalis
Utrecht University