Tyranny of the Gene
PersonalizedMedicine and Its Threat to Public Health
Arevelatory account of how power, politics, and greed have placed the unfulfilled promise of personalized medicine at the center of American medicine
The United States is embarking on a medical revolution. Supporters of personalized, or precision, medicine—the tailoring of health care to our genomes—have promised to usher in a new era of miracle cures. Advocates of this gene-guided health-care practice foresee a future where skyrocketing costs can be curbed by customization and unjust disparities are vanquished by biomedical breakthroughs. Progress, however, has come slowly, and with a price too high for the average citizen.
In Tyranny of the Gene, James Tabery exposes the origin story of personalized medicine—essentially a marketing idea dreamed up by pharmaceutical executives—and traces its path from the Human Genome Project to the present, revealing how politicians, influential federal scientists, biotech companies, and drug giants all rallied behind the genetic hype. The result is a medical revolution that privileges the few at the expense of healthcare that benefits us all.
Now American health care, driven by the commercialization of biomedical research, is shifting focus away from the study of the social and environmental determinants of health, such as access to fresh and nutritious food, exposure to toxic chemicals, and stress caused by financial insecurity. Instead, it is increasingly investing in “miracle pills” for leukemia that would bankrupt most users, genetic studies of minoritized populations that ignore structural racism and walk dangerously close to eugenic conclusions, and oncology centers that advertise the perfect gene-drug match, igniting a patient’s hope, and often dashing it later. Tyranny of the Gene sounds a warning cry about the current trajectory of health care and charts a path to a more equitable alternative.
Knopf(August 15, 2023)
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