Researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and Duke in the United States, as well as Cambridge University in Great Britain are teaming up to find out if everyday painkillers like Aleve and Celebrex can be made more effective and safer through personalized medicine – which would involve customizing patient treatments based on genetic traits.  The University of Pennsylvania has been awarded an $18 million grant in what is hoped to be a far-reaching effort to identify how people respond to the medicines with the goal of finding biological signs that may predict how well a patient does on a medicine, as well as side effects that can occur.  An objective of the study is to see patients eventually put their own data into a smartphone app to help them determine which medicines to take, at what doses, and for how long.  The drug Vioxx was withdrawn from the market in 2004 due to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Celebrex and naproxen will be tested on five different biological systems – yeast, mammalian cells, mice, zebrafish and humans. The researchers will look for patterns among elements such as genetic variants and metabolic processes in an effort  to find risks or benefits in the medicines. It is hoped that randomized trials will then link patterns to benefits as well as risks in the usage of Celebrex, naproxen and other NSAIDs.  Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, director of the Institute for Translational Medicine & Therapeutics at the University of Pennyslvania believes this long-term study can provide answers to commonly asked questions with science providing the answers. “There is a dominant pathway by which these drugs work, but it’s occurring in a context, and everybody’s context is different. That’s the basis of why people respond differently”….. WSJ.com   8/16/12

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