Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomics: Public Policy and Bioethical Issues Associated with Patents for Drug Development

Arthur Falek, Michael W. Jann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The genetic component of variations in human responses to pharmacological agents is called pharmacogenetics while the molecular basis for these variations are most often identified as pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomics as a field of scientific endeavor is so new that in the scientific literature the two terms are often used interchangeably. In fact, the search for new drugs at the molecular level start with the identification of variations in DNA sequences whose products produce alterations in the amino acid structure of the active portion of a protein which are then identified with the clinical disorder in question. This process is just the reverse of standard pharmaceutical approaches which begin with exploration of the physiological and potentially the biochemical basis of the specific disorder under study. The completion of the first draft of the human genome in the first months of the new millenium has increased expectations that molecular genetic approaches to drug disovery and development will significantly shorten the time-frame of new drug testing, significantly reduce the level of adverse events and anable the design of drugs to treat those with unique disorders. Based on such rosy expectations and the potential economic opportunities afforded by those who obtain such patents, there has been a rush of patent applications both in the United States and in Europe by private industry and university laboratories conducting genomic research to secure the rights to specific DNA sequences and federal agencies attempting to place the control of such information in the public domaine. This paper will document and discuss from a historic prospective the public policy and bioethical issues associated with the availability of patents for drug development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Bioethics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2000


  • DNA sequences
  • bioethical issues
  • human genome public policy
  • pharmacogenetics


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