Larry Lesko: Pharmacogenomic Pioneer

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  • 08/17/2007
It's tough being the first. You are often called crazy. When the Human Genome Project was launched even David Baltimore derided it as a monumental waste of money. The researchers who claimed blood pressure was a marker for heart attacks were similarly attacked. So the chorus of "let's do the randomized studies" to validate what our genes tell us is so predictable in response to Larry Lesko's effort to push a gene testing label on a drug that I daresay the FDA has seen more safety data about than anyone who is criticizing Lesko has seen in their little lifetimes.

What I also find interesting in that the people criticizing Lesko are some of the very same people who have been writing articles in the past touting the value of genetic testing, albeit to promote THEIR research. That goes for Anne Wittkowsky of the University of Washington who has written optimistically about gene testing for warfarin in the past only to piss all over Lesko for the benefit of Anna Mathews piece. And of course insurers want all the data in the world to pay for new things but have no problem switching statins on folks without the slightest hint of evidence that doing so will improve patient care.

I know the plural of anecdotes is not evidence. But I have seen the impact of genetic testing in my family. I used both the Roche Amplichip and a battery of tests from Genomas to improve the dosing of certain drugs for my daughter and avoid the painful side effects of statin drugs. So has my mother who was on the cheapest generic statin that was causing the dizziness and muscle cramps she associated with fibromyalgia.

Lesko and Felix Frueh work largely alone to move the FDA -- and health care -- into the era of personalized medicine. It is symptomatic of the scientific community to exhibit pettiness, jealousy and hypocrisy when someone tries to move medicine into the clinic. But to my mind they should get a special award for their efforts. For now, a thank you from drugwonks will have to do.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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