Will gene screens usher in personalized medicine?
Drugs can cure you and they can kill you. More often, they'll do something in between. They'll relieve some of what ails you, but there may be a cost. Side effects can be relatively mild, such as rashes, fever, fatigue, and nausea. Or they can be more severe, including internal bleeding, insufficient numbers of white blood cells, and abnormal heart rhythms. Because so many people rely on drugs, the problem of side effects amounts to a major public health issue. Several recent high-profile reports have suggested that adverse side effects of drugs rank among the leading causes of hospitalization and death in the United States.
So far, prescribing drugs is something of a crapshoot. It's often difficult to predict who will benefit from a specific drug and who will be susceptible to side effects.
"The question is, How can we appropriately individualize drug therapy to maximize benefits and minimize risks?" says Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research