Pharmacogenetic factors operate at pharmacokinetic as well as pharmacodynamic levels—the two components of the dose–response curve of a drug. Polymorphisms in drug metabolizing enzymes, transporters and/or pharmacological targets of drugs may profoundly influence the dose–response relationship between individuals. For some drugs, although retrospective data from case studies suggests that these polymorphisms are frequently associated with adverse drug reactions or failure of efficacy, the clinical utility of such data remains unproven. There is, therefore, an urgent need for prospective data to determine whether pre-treatment genotyping can improve therapy. Various regulatory guidelines already recommend exploration of the role of genetic factors when investigating a drug for its pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, dose–response relationship and drug interaction potential. Arising from the global heterogeneity in the frequency of variant alleles, regulatory guidelines also require the sponsors to provide additional information, usually pharmacogenetic bridging data, to determine whether data from one ethnic population can be extrapolated to another. At present, sponsors explore pharmacogenetic influences in early clinical pharmacokinetic studies but rarely do they carry the findings forward when designing dose–response studies or pivotal studies. When appropriate, regulatory authorities include genotype-specific recommendations in the prescribing information. Sometimes, this may include the need to adjust a dose in some genotypes under specific circumstances. Detailed references to pharmacogenetics in prescribing information and pharmacogenetically based prescribing in routine therapeutics will require robust prospective data from well-designed studies. With greater integration of pharmacogenetics in drug development, regulatory authorities expect to receive more detailed genetic data. This is likely to complicate the drug evaluation process as well as result in complex prescribing information. Genotype-specific dosing regimens will have to be more precise and marketing strategies more prudent. However, not all variations in drug responses are related to pharmacogenetic polymorphisms. Drug response can be modulated by a number of non-genetic factors, especially co-medications and presence of concurrent diseases. Inappropriate prescribing frequently compounds the complexity introduced by these two important non-genetic factors. Unless prescribers adhere to the prescribing information, much of the benefits of pharmacogenetics will be squandered.
Discovering highly predictive genotype–phenotype associations during drug development and demonstrating their clinical validity and utility in well-designed prospective clinical trials will no doubt better define the role of pharmacogenetics in future clinical practice. In the meantime, prescribing should comply with the information provided while pharmacogenetic research is deservedly supported by all concerned but without unrealistic expectations.
↵† Previously Senior Clinical Assessor, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, London SW8 5NQ, UK.
↵‡ The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the MHRA, other regulatory authorities or any of their advisory bodies.
One contribution of 12 to a Discussion Meeting Issue ‘Genetic variation and human health’.
- © 2005 The Royal Society