DATABASE: Genetics Infiltrates the Pharmacy

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Science  23 Jan 2004:
Vol. 303, Issue 5657, pp. 443
DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5657.443c

For most patients, the drug codeine soothes the intense pain of injuries or surgery, but some people get no relief and others develop dangerous side effects such as difficulty breathing. These disparate outcomes stem from slight differences in the gene for the liver enzyme CYP2D6, which transforms codeine into morphine.

Researchers studying how genes dictate our response to particular drugs will find a trove of information at PharmGKB, a database built by Stanford University as part of a research consortium. You can look up particular genes that influence how well a drug works—the list includes more than 1300 so far—or track down drugs and diseases for which genetics make a difference. Stored here are findings from the literature and experimental results submitted by scientists, such as a study that linked side effects from a cancer drug to different versions of a metabolic enzyme. Because the site contains measurements for individual patients, users must submit their credentials and agree to confidentiality restrictions before they can search the full database.

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