Background: Pharmacogenetics is a rapidly growing field that aims to identify the genes that influence drug response. This science can be used as a powerful tool to tailor drug treatment to the genetic makeup of individuals. The present study explores the coverage of the topic of pharmacogenetics and its potential benefit in personalised medicine by the UK newsprint media.
Methods: The LexisNexis database was used to identify and retrieve full text articles from the 10 highest circulation national daily newspapers and their Sunday equivalents in the UK. Content analysis of newspaper articles which referenced pharmacogenetic testing was carried out. A second researcher coded a random sample (21%) of newspaper articles to establish the inter-rater reliability of coding.
Results: Of the 256 articles captured by the search terms, 96 articles (with pharmacogenetics as a major component) met the study inclusion criteria. The majority of articles over-stated the benefits of pharmacogenetic testing while paying less attention to the associated risks. Overall beneficial effects were mentioned 5.3 times more frequently than risks (p < 0.001). The most common illnesses for which pharmacogenetically based personalised medicine was discussed were cancer, cardiovascular disease and CNS diseases. Only 13% of newspaper articles that cited a specific scientific study mentioned this link in the article. There was a positive correlation between the size of the article and both the number of benefits and risks stated (P < 0.01).
Conclusion: More comprehensive coverage of the area of personalised medicine within the print media is needed to inform public debate on the inclusion of pharmacogentic testing in routine practice.
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