August 4, 2005
Quality of Life: Individualized drugs and gender-specific pain treatment
By Perry Willis
Government solutions tend to be one-size-fits-all, even though individuals and their problems are far from all one-size. This is an inevitable consequence of centralized rule by politicians who are experts at getting elected, if little else. But our quality-of-life improves anyway because of the decentralized voluntary sector. Here's another example . . . Individuals are genetically different. A consequence of this is that we get different diseases and respond differently to treatments, even for the same disease. In addition to the highly specific genetic differences between individuals are the more generic variations between men and women. The decentralized voluntary sector is becoming increasingly adept at dealing with these differences. One emerging example is the treatment of pain. There is increasing evidence that men and woman experience pain differently, and respond to pain relief treatments differently as well. There are even examples of pain medications that work for women, but increase pain in men. Now researchers are looking more deeply into this phenomenon. The result could be improved pain relief tailored specifically for gender. You can find details here. But pain relief is only part of the story. Similar progress is also being made in finding cures and treatments that also take into account our individual genetic differences. Progress in this area has been stymied by concerns about FDA regulation, but the FDA has recently taken steps to clarify the picture and pave the way for more research (the wheels of government move slowly, but sometimes they do move). Still another concern comes on the market side of the equation. New drugs cost so much to develop (largely because of huge regulatory burdens), that pharmaceutical companies have a natural desire to focus on blockbuster treatments that work for everyone, rather than individualized drugs that only work for select groups with specific genetic markers. But this incentive is more apparent than real. The recent experience with Vioxx has given drug makers a more accurate picture of what their incentives really are. Vioxx is safe and effective for some people, but not for others. Screening for the genetic markers that determine who should use Vioxx, and who should not, could save the drug, and all of the development money invested in it. The same is true for many other compounds, including some that are languishing on the shelf because they could not demonstrate a wide enough application. Individualized drugs, tied to specific genetic markers, could turn many seemingly failed drugs into money makers, while improving the lives of millions. You can learn more here.
Filed under Quality of Life, Health
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