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Pharmacogenetics: Ethical Issues and Policy Options

Pharmacogenetics offers the prospect of an era of safer and more effective drugs, as well as more individualized use of drug therapies. Before the benefits of pharmacogenetics can be realized, the ethical issues that arise in research and clinical application of pharmacogenetic technologies must be addressed. The ethical issues raised by pharmacogenetics can be addressed under six headings: (1) regulatory oversight, (2) confidentiality and privacy, (3) informed consent, (4) availability of drugs, (5) access, and (6) clinicians' changing responsibilities in the era of pharmacogenetic medicine. We analyze each of these categories of ethical issues and provide policy approaches for addressing them.