Brussels, 22 Nov 2002
The UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics has issued a consultation paper on ethical issues raised by the development of personalised medicines (pharmacogenetics).
[ Consultation Paper Comments must be submitted by 19 February 2003.]
In the future, prescriptions could be tailored to an individual's genetic profile. This is because our genetic make-up may explain why people respond differently to the same medicine. Some medicines are not effective for everyone and others may cause adverse side effects, or even death.
Research in pharmacogenetics investigates how genetic variation between individuals affects their responses to medicine. This may allow doctors to take samples from patients, make a profile of their DNA, and predict which medicines will be most effective, or will have fewer side effects.
Researchers in pharmacogenetics are already investigating current and future treatments for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and depression and while clinical applications may not be widespread for several years the Council feels it is important to consider the ethical and legal issues which may arise.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has established a working party which will consider questions such as whether pharmacogenetics will increase inequalities in the provision of healthcare and whether the development of medicines for specific groups of the population could exclude others.
'We would welcome comments from individuals and organisations on ethical, social and legal implications of this rapidly developing area and are looking forward to hearing a wide range of views on these issues,' said Professor Peter Lipton, Chairman of the working party and Head of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent body that examines ethical issues raised by developments in medicine and biology. The working party, which includes philosophers, scientists and physicians, will publish a report in the autumn of 2003.
Pharmacogenetics section on the Nuffield Council website