Research Article: Awareness and attitude of the public toward personalized medicine in Korea

Date Published: February 16, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Iyn-Hyang Lee, Hye-Young Kang, Hae Sun Suh, Sukhyang Lee, Eun Sil Oh, Hotcherl Jeong, Noam Shomron.


As personalized medicine (PM) is expected to greatly improve health outcomes, efforts have recently been made for its clinical implementation in Korea. We aimed to evaluate public awareness and attitude regarding PM.

We performed a self-administered questionnaire survey to 703 adults, who participated in the survey on a voluntary basis. The primary outcome measures included public knowledge, attitude, and acceptance of PM. We conducted multinomial multivariate logistic analysis for outcome variables with three response categories and performed multivariate logistic regression analyses for dichotomous outcome variables.

Only 28% of participants had knowledge that genetic factors can contribute to inter-individual variations in drug response and the definition of PM (199 out of 702). Higher family income was correlated with greater knowledge concerning PM (OR = 3.76, p = 0.034). A majority of respondents preferred integrated pharmacogenomic testing over drug-specific testing and agreed to inclusion of pharmacogenomic testing in the national health examination (64% and 77%, respectively), but only 51% were willing to pay for it.

Our results identify the urgent need for public education as well as the potential health disparities in access to PM. This study helps to frame policies for implementing PM in clinical practice.

Partial Text

The last decade featured an unprecedented pace of advancement in medical sciences driven by genomic technologies [1, 2]. The cost of sequencing has dropped sharply and thus the general public has easier access to genetic testing and identification of genomes. Society is more likely to realize the advantages of pharmacogenomics (PGx), a major driver of personalized medicine (PM). In cases which the potential benefits of PGx are realized and PM is routinely adopted in clinical practice, we expect a wide range of positive outcomes: (i) saving time and cost by increasing the efficiency of clinical trials in the drug development process; (ii) improving drug efficacy and safety in the short term; and (iii) improving health outcomes with better quality-of-life for patients in the long term [3–7]. Thus, many regulatory agencies in developed countries have promoted application of PGx data to drug development processes and implementing personalized medicine in clinical practice.

This study explored public awareness and attitudes toward PM in Korea and evaluated the feasibility of an MFDS internal proposal for the implementation of PM into the national healthcare system. The survey results revealed some notable points as follows: Approximately 28% of participants were aware of PGx testing. Another group, comprised of 36% of participants, recognized that genetic factors can contribute to inter-individual variations in drug response, but were unaware of PGx testing. This low level of public awareness is quite distinguishable from the high level (80%) in the U.S. population [13]. This is in line with a previous report suggesting the lower level of public awareness for genetic testing among Asians compared with Americans [15]. This substantial difference could be the result of information on genetic testing has seldom been publicly promoted. The public has yet to experience relevant social issues such as regulatory issues surrounding direct-to-consumer genetic testing in Korea.

The low level of public awareness regarding PM in Korea is likely associated with the lack of information as well as some individual socio-demographic characteristics. It is notable that family income showed a positive correlation with PGx knowledge. This highlights the urgent need for increasing public awareness as well as reducing potential health disparities in access to PM. This study will help to frame policies for implementing PM in clinical practice.




0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments