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  • Writer's pictureOzzie Paez

The future of medicines

COVID-19 is helping illuminate how our genetic makeup affects our response to viruses, medicines, and therapies. We should not be surprised. For example, test results confirmed that I'm not sensitive to caffeine. I already knew it since I frequently drink coffee and black tea before going to bed. I know others who won't sleep if they have a cup after dinner. The same applies to chemicals that can trigger deadly allergic reactions in some while not affecting others.

My sense is that in a global pandemic affecting hundreds of millions, some drugs like hydroxychloroquine will help some and do little for others. We simply don’t know and can’t easily tell who benefits and who doesn’t. Technologies like sensors and artificial intelligence are poised to answer those questions in the near future. These developments should lead to highly individualized, more effective medicines and theorapies. The downside is that our DNA code will be ‘out there’ like nature’s version of our Social Security Number.

I had hoped that we could rely on the private sector and non-government entities to help secure our genetic privacy, while enabling better research and development of medicinies and therapies. The alternatives are government agencies that ostencibly could protect private information by controlling access. Unfortunately, based on their history, there are no trustworthy, practical, and reliable solutions currently available in and out of government. This could become a bigger barrier to developing more effective medicines than the gaps in our knowledge.

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