The Right Prescription for Personalized Medicine

  • May 14, 2007
  • By Gail H. Javitt and Kathy Hudson


Pharmacogenetics – the study of how genetic differences influence drug response – tantalizes the public with its promise of providing the right medicine for the right patient at the right dose, saving lives, preventing dangerous side effects and reducing healthcare costs. A key goal of pharmacogenetics is to integrate genetic information into drug development and drug prescribing in order to better match therapies to patients based on specific genetic characteristics.

However, delivering on this promise requires that the right constellation of policies is in place. Such policies must ensure the accuracy and reliability of the genetic tests used to make treatment decisions, while at the same time promoting the development of new tests. Such policies must also create a mechanism for the development of data linking genetic variants to drug response. In particular, data are needed to support concrete dosing recommendations that in turn can be incorporated into drug labels and be used by healthcare providers. Finally, patients must have adequate assurance that the information obtained through genetic testing will be used for their benefit and not to discriminate against them in employment or insurance. Current policies are not up to the task and several key reforms are needed.

Read the complete article The Right Prescription for Personalized Medicine on the Future Medicine Web site.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Genetics & Public Policy Center Web site or visit the Genetics and Public Policy Centeron PewHealth.org.