Historically, members of the Black and Asian communities have been under-represented in clinical trials, but tailoring drug development to race wouldn't redress any imbalance, say researchers.
Historically, members of the Black and Asian communities have been under-represented in clinical trials, but tailoring drug development to race wouldn’t redress any imbalance, say researchers.
’The use of race in this context should always be used as an interim measure to see us through a period of ignorance,’ said David Goldstein, professor of genetics at University College London, UK, commenting in light of a meeting Does medicine discriminate by race?, organised by the British Association for the Advancement of Science to mark Black History Month.
Once the underlying genetic or environmental factors that influence individual response to a drug are known, drug developers can consider those factors directly ’and ignore race’, he told Chemistry World.
To complicate matters, racial groups are far from ’monolithic, undifferentiated entities,’ adds Goldstein. His earlier work showed that some people identifying themselves as ’African American’ are actually more European in their ancestry.
Nevertheless, says Anand Saggar, consultant geneticist at St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, UK, pharmacogenetics offers the opportunity to tailor therapy to individual groups. ’The challenge is to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry does not focus on developing or refining medicines for particular socio-economic markets,’ said Saggar, speaking at the meeting.
There may come a day when geographically-defined groups are less likely to benefit from specific new drugs, says Howard McLeod, associate professor in oncology at Washington University in St Louis, US, but it is in the ’distant future.’ McLeod, an expert on molecular predictors of therapeutic outcome, reports that most current pharmacogenetics strategies aim to exclude patients with ’bad-risk’ genotypes, usually 5-30 per cent of the population. ’We are not yet at the stage where we have pharmacogenetic markers that have sufficient precision to justify excluding large parts of the population,’ he said.