WASHINGTON - Science Progress, a project of the online magazine Center for American Progress, released “Addressing Race and Genetics: Health Disparities in the Age of Personalized Medicine,” a report that studies how personalized medicine can potentially alleviate racial and ethnic health disparities.
Personalized medicine, which is the development of medicines and therapies tailored to patients’ unique genetic traits and risks, is expected to become a rapidly growing industry as the price of full genome sequencing drops precipitously and research in the field expands.
But the report states, the health care and scientific communities will have to answer important questions about who will have access to the medical advancements that develop in the field of personalized medicine.
In particular, certain issues regarding racial and ethnic health disparities need to be addressed in order for personalized medicine to offer the greatest benefit to all. The paper examines these issues in detail and then offers some ethical guidelines for policymakers to consider, among them:
• There must be a frank discussion of the social and methodological appropriateness of using race or ethnicity as disease proxies.
• Genetic variation research and clinical trials must systematically incorporate such discussions into their individual study designs and the research itself.
• We cannot ignore structural inequalities in access to health care and in fact should seek to reduce them through research that looks at social, environmental, and behavioral contributions to health status as well as research on the outcomes of different care delivery models for different populations.