The UK's Nuffield Council on Bioethics has launched a public consultation on the ethical issues raised by the future development of medical prescriptions tailored to a person's genetic make-up. The paper, published on 19 November, poses twenty questions relating to the use of genetic tests to predict how a person will react to a particular medicine, also known as pharmacogenetics.
People often respond differently to the same medicine, for example, it may be more effective in some people than others, or it may cause unwanted side effects in some. It may one day be possible for a doctor to carry out a genetic test prior to prescribing a medicine, to identify the safest and most effective treatment for each patient.
The consultation document looks at the current state of pharmacogenetics, and examines the likely economic and regulatory impact of such tests. It also considers the confidentiality issues associated with storage and use of genetic information collected in this way, and the implications of identifying a genetic variation associated with a particular ethnic group.
'We are looking forward to hearing a wide range of views on these issues' said Professor Peter Lipton, Chairman of the Working Party set up to consider the findings of the consultation. The document is available to download from the Nuffield Council's website, and the deadline for responses is 19 February 2003.