Rhetoric and hype: where's the 'ethics' in pharmacogenomics?

Am J Pharmacogenomics. 2003;3(6):375-83. doi: 10.2165/00129785-200303060-00004.


There is increasing discussion in public and academic forums about the anticipated benefits of pharmacogenomics, as well as the attendant social and ethical implications of this research. Yet there is often an implicit assumption that the benefits of pharmacogenomics are 'just around the corner' and will significantly outweigh the costs. Furthermore, it is argued that the associated ethical issues are not as profound as those that emerge in other areas of genetics, and that experience gained wrestling with these other issues provides ample ethical and regulatory tools to deal with any problems arising with pharmacogenomics. We contend that this vision of ethical and social issues associated with pharmacogenomics is not so clear-cut. The scientific evidence is more complex and contested than the public, academics, and policy makers, have been led to believe, and while there may be real clinical benefits from this research, they are not likely to arrive in the near future. Pharmacogenomics research is also occurring in a terrain occupied by a multitude of different and powerful actors, with diverse and often competing interests. It is therefore essential to investigate the broader social and political context, unravel the various interests pressuring for early implementation, and deconstruct the hype in order to appreciate a fuller range of ethical and social consequences associated with the current developments of pharmacogenomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Industry / ethics
  • Drug Industry / methods
  • Drug Industry / trends
  • Health Policy / trends
  • Humans
  • Patient Participation / methods
  • Pharmacogenetics / ethics*
  • Pharmacogenetics / methods*
  • Pharmacogenetics / trends