Public Release: 

Most Americans open to pharmacogenomics research

Attitudes differ by education level, race, income and age

University of Louisville

DENVER, Colo. -- Most people are open to the idea of using genetics to improve drug therapies, but they don't fully grasp how it works or how it might affect them.

That's the finding of a national survey aimed at assessing public attitudes toward pharmacogenomics, an area of research aimed at discovering the role genes play in how someone will respond to a certain drug.

The survey, funded through a $900,000 National Institutes of Health grant, was conducted by Mark Rothstein, a medical ethics specialist who directs the University of Louisville's Institute for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law. Results of the survey were released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Denver.

"A lot of public and private research has been devoted to pharmacogenomics in the past several years, but far less attention has been paid to its ethical, legal and social implications," Rothstein said.

One survey goal was to determine whether the average person understands, even in a basic way, the underlying science of pharmacogenomics, he said. The survey found that attitudes varied significantly by educational level, race, income and age, although not by gender.

Nearly eight out of 10 respondents said they were somewhat likely or very likely to take part in genetic research. Whites and Asians were about 8 percent to 10 percent more likely to take part in research than African Americans and Hispanics, and respondents with more education were more willing to take part than those with less education.

By a wide margin, respondents were most likely to trust medical institutions and health organizations to perform the research than the federal government or pharmaceutical companies, the survey found. Asians and Hispanics expressed more trust in the federal government than whites or African Americans.

Income level factored into whether people felt they could afford pharmacogenomic-based drugs. Fewer than half of the respondents with annual incomes of $50,000 or below believed they could afford the drugs, while the proportion climbed to about three-fourths of respondents with annual incomes of $100,000 or higher.

The survey was administered in 2001 through random telephone interviews with 1,800 people across the United States.


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