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The ghost of personalized medicine

June 15, 2011

While the FDA recommends that doctors genotype patients for specific genetic biomarkers before prescribing more than 70 commonly-used medications, in a 2008 survey, only 10 percent of doctors believed they were adequately informed about how to test their patients for biomarkers.

The AMA states on its website that physicians today can use more than 1,200 genetic tests for more than 1,000 different diseases to help diagnose and treat their patients, but only 13 percent of the 10,000 doctors who responded to the survey had ordered a genetic test for a patient in the preceding 6 months.

In some cases, testing patients for the labeled pharmacogenomic markers has become critical. For example, the FDA strongly recommends that doctors prescribing the HIV drug abacavir test their patients for HLA-B*5701 allele. Individuals carrying that allele who take abacavir could become hypersensitive to the drug, which can lead to a systemic, potentially fatal flu-like illness.

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