Global pharma firms making drugs for the Indian market may have to review their discovery and development programme, following a path-breaking discovery by top Indian and American scientists that India is genetically not a single large population.
“Drug companies engaged in clinical trials could be worried as our research shows that many groups in modern India descend from a small number of founding individuals. A common drug may not be the answer, considering the genetic variation in the Indian population. For instance, medicines tested on the Western population may not be effective on the Indian population,” said Lalji Singh, former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular and Biology (CCMB) who has co-authored the research findings on Reconstructing the Indian Population History, said on Thursday.
The work, published in the latest issue of Nature, has medical implications for people of Indian descent. More than three-fourths of India’s over one billion people are burdened with genetic disorders. The study shows that Indians have been genetically different from other groups and this could be a major cause of recessive diseases. The incidence of genetic diseases among Indians is, therefore, different from the rest of the world.
“Drug makers may have to consider the genetic variation in the Indian population as the treatment for any disease will depend on the genetic profile of the individual,” said Kumaraswamy Thangaraj, co-author and senior research scientist at the CCMB.
In Andhra Pradesh, for instance, the Vaishya community does not have an enzyme which metabolises anaesthesia. Breast cancer is predominant among the Parsi community, while a rare neurological disorder is rampant in the population in Chittor and Tirupati.
“Drug trials should take into account diseases that are specific to the population,” said Lalji. A senior official of a top Indian drug-maker who did not wish to be identified said that pharma companies, the world over, are alive to the issue as the success of clinical trials and the efficacy of a drug hinges on the gene pool.