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Edited by M A Rothstein. John Wiley & sons, 2003, £41.95, pp 384. ISBN 0471227692
In this interesting and stimulating collection, Mark Rothstein has brought together authors from a number of different disciplines (including bioethics, law, pharmacy, genetics, and regulatory science) to explore some of the issues surrounding pharmacogenomics: the use of genetic testing to design new drugs, and to prescribe more effectively the drugs we already have. Pharmacogenomics is an area of fevered speculation on the part of biotechnology firms and large pharmaceutical companies. Their hope is that by targeting drugs at specific populations, industry will be able to develop new products more quickly, more cheaply, and with less risk of marketing something that actually kills the patient. An often cited study by Lazarou, Pomeranz, and Corey suggests that adverse drugs reactions are between the fourth and the sixth biggest causes of death in US hospitals.1
As someone very familiar with the scientific and ethical literature on pharmacogenomics, I did find that a number of chapters in this collection simply rehearsed arguments that have been made elsewhere, sometimes by the same authors. Rather than seeing these as “fillers”, however, I think it is better to regard them as providing a sound introduction to the current state of …