Pharmacogenetics is a rapidly expanding area of research focussed on the relationship between drug response and genetic variation. Due to the broad range of potential applications its influence on the process of drug development and on the practice of medicine, but also on society could be enormous. Therefore, the ethical, social and legal issues connected to the field are the subject of a number of recent publications. This review summarizes the key ethical implications of pharmacogenetics concerning both research and potential clinical applications, such as the stratification of patients and research participants, the establishment and use of biobanks, the use of racial identifiers in research, the problem of secondary information, informed consent issues, the potential for discrimination and stigmatisation, possible changes to the doctor-patient relationship and issues of access to and allocation of pharmacogenetic services. The study of the literature shows that there is no fundamental opposition to the field, even though a large number of potential problems have been identified. Most discussions are aimed to partake in the shaping of the field and its implementation into clinical practice, pointing at potential pitfalls. Ethical evaluations of putative future developments and their consequences are based on the anticipation of different future scenarios and thus tied to actual developments in the field. Thus, specifications and possibly revisions will be necessary as the field progresses.
Keywords: pharmacogenetic tests, Biobanking, Bioethics, genetic exceptionalism, Informed Consent