DNA scans for everybody who did a failed drug trial

The pharma industry is littered with cases of drugs that showed good promise, but proved to be too dangerous when they got into human trials. Dangerous side effects will cancel development for most drugs. In some cases, such as Vioxx and Fen-Phen the dangerous effects were discovered later, and the drugs pulled from the market.

Some people got better on the drugs, others had bad side effects. Sometimes those bad side effects will be the result of various environmental factors, or perhaps rarely they will be bad luck. However, I suspect that some good portion of the time, they will be due to genetic factors in the test subject.

DNA sequencing is getting cheaper every day. Even today the whole genome can be done for $5,000 wholesale and many expect it to be hundreds before long. Collections of 600,000 to 1,000,000 SNPs can be read for a few hundred dollars.

It strikes me that the drug companies will want to make efforts immediately to get DNA samples, if they don't have them, from all the people who participated in the trials of failed drugs, particularly those who had the bad side effects. And to get those samples sequenced. Because in some cases, they may well find a connection between the bad reaction and genetic patterns. They might find cases where all the side effects had one gene and all the regular reactions had another.

If they do find this, then suddenly they will have a billion dollar drug on their hands again, with much of the work already done, presuming the FDA and other regulatory agencies accept this approach. With the gene identified, making a test for it would be very cheap, and suddenly a useful drug might be available to those who have no problems with it. This might leave the people with the reacting DNA out in the lurch of course, and nobody is likely to try to find a drug for them in the immediate future.

If people get large DNA scans, those scans should remain in the possession of the patient or their doctor. There are already laws forbidding insurance companies in some jurisdictions from using DNA data to adjust insurance, but there will be powerful forces trying to reverse this.

DNA results will also explain differing efficacies of the drugs. It's already been learned that many people need different doses of the same drug, and also that some drugs work on men but not on women, for example.

I expect this will be standard practice for future drug trials, but my point today is that since many of these people are still alive, we can reach into the past and learn the truth about long-past drug trials as well, and perhaps get a brief flood of new useful substances as long as the patient is DNA typed in advance.


This is an intriguing idea that I've never considered before. It could explain a lot. One problem I see with this is, even if the DNA sequencing determines specific DNA markers of persons who should not take a particular drug, every person would require DNA sequencing before taking the drug...or run avoidable risks.

Perhaps, if everyone's insurer offered to pay for one-time DNA sequencing just as they require a physical exam before coverage is permitted, it would work. But, otherwise, the situation would devolve into where the wealthy who could afford DNA sequencing would benefit from tested drugs, and the have-nots, unsurprisingly, would not. Nevertheless, it seems an excellent idea for pharmaceutical companies to, as you suggested, do the DNA sequencing.

In a few years, full genome sequencing will be quite cheap. But even today, if a DNA target is identified as the cause of a side effect, one can design a test for just that DNA which is very cheap. However, before long, people will just be getting a sequence as a routine part of their medical regimen (though hopefully keeping possession of the data.) Besides, if you are about to take a new expensive heart drug, a DNA test to see if it will work properly or not makes sense because it's still cheaper than the drug.

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