Recent initiatives to include the general public in genotyping research have increased awareness of the role of individual genetic variation in determining response to drug treatment. Taking a cue from direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising, pharmacogenomics companies now are taking the next step, giving patients the possibility of directing their own treatment options through genetic tests marketed directly to the public.

In a few weeks, for example, PPGx Inc. will launch its internet-based direct-to-consumer genotyping test for five alleles of the 2D6 cytochrome P450 gene. The gene has a primary role in regulating the rate of metabolism of 25 percent of marketed pharmaceuticals (especially neurological drugs) and some OTC products, including Eli Lilly and Co.'s Prozac fluoxetine and the cough suppressant dextromethorphan.