October 02, 2004

Racialized drugs

Geneticist worked hard to prove that races didn't exist otherwise then a social behavior based on superficial phenotypic variations of minor importance.

As the resolution of reading of the genome was increased, and data collected world-wide, geneticists worked hard to show individual reaction to medication, seeking for markers allowing evaluation of the efficiency of a treatment on individual cases.

Naturally, following the rules of genetic transmission of a founding mutation, genotypes are clustered following families, clans, ethnic groups, whatever group limiting inter-groups-breeding on the basis of habits, culture, social or religious conventions etc.

It was inevitable that the pharmaceutical companies would come to the conclusion that some treatments should be reserved, and tailored, to/for specific groups, based on specific genotypes, probably corresponding to ethic group. Just because people marry neighbors. The case appeared and somehow, once again, the racial problem popped up.

It is obvious that sometime in the future, medication will be adapted to ones genotype and acquired phenotypic variations, in order to optimize treatments and avoid side-effects. Sometime, without any estimation is the best guest I could give. Several problems have to be solved before this will become a routine.
Better knowledge of individual reactions and correlations with genetic markers is just the first step.
Easy and affordable genotyping available to physicians will be the second one.
Acceptation of the use of genotyping data in medical files will be a major obstacle to overcome as privacy should be protected and security warranties given.

Troy Duster, in "Racial Medecine's Revival", talk about the ...the new mantra of biotechnology is to claim that someday soon pharmaceuticals will be marketed to individuals based on their DNA,[but] the fundamental truth is that selling drugs is still a mass-market business.
And he is worried about racialized drugs, as [t]hey may be coming soon, accompanied by the retrograde racial thinking - with its full range of dangerous assumptions and historical associations - that molecular biology was supposed to have dispelled.

Well, molecular biology do abolished racial thinking for those accepting to consider the evidence of genetic data. Anyway, molecular biologists aren't competent to tailor the public opinion as such. Some of them may be also interested by social issues and fight racial discrimination, but this isn't their job.

I suppose that we are here in the presence of a stupid marketing movement. Considering in the first place the African American Community was the worst of things to do. It would be more wise to choose an neutral group, let's say the Greek Community. Greeks love to be special people, it would be in phase withe the Olympiad and nobody would suspect that this was a racial discrimination! And this would be profitable to the Greek Community, hopefully me included.
Despite the fact that Greeks don't represent a large market target, it would be preferable to have an easy going proof of concept case, the shift from this paradigm to other genotype related groups.

So, fellows molecular biologists, quickly choose any affection specific to Greeks and please take care of it. This may somehow easy (one may hope) the reactions of the African American Community and be of great help for us Greeks who haven't be able to drown your attention in the first place.
An other suggestion, probably more reassuring for the African American Community, is to work on drugs against melanomas induced by UVs on the absence of pigmentation. This wasn't my first suggestion because I fear that there will be some sociology professor who will claim that "trying to destroy melanocytes is an attempt to the dignity of melanin-rich people".

And you, fellows Eclectic Thinkers, what are you think about it?