Nanoethics for Nanomedicine September 2019
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According to Grand View Research analysts, the global nanomedicine market is growing, owing to an increase in demand from the pharmaceutical industry, and by 2025 could reach $350 billion—more than double the value estimated by analysts in 2016. The ability to control the characteristics of nanomaterials—including their composition, size, biodegradability, morphology, and surface functionality—enables research teams to design nanomaterials specifically for medical applications and personalized treatments. However, many questions remain about the ethical issues of nanomedicine. Scientists are looking to highlight the role ethics plays in shaping legislation, organizational policy, and public discussion about nanomedicine. For example, in the April 2019 AMA Journal of Ethics, scientists suggest that physicians should explain to patients the clinical and ethical details of clinical trials for nanomedicine to avoid therapeutic misconception while promoting realism and countering hype. Physicians should also provide guidance about nanomedicine that would enable patients to give informed consent.
Major concerns of clinical-trial participants are likely to be regulation and safety of new nanomedicines, including reassurances about product efficacy. Closely aligned with these concerns are also concerns addressing the potential for a new nanotechnology to have both good and bad applications for regenerative medicine. Many patients may see the use of regenerative medicine to treat near-term clinical cases as worthy of funding but may be cautious about its potential for use in human improvement.
Public perception and acceptance of nanomaterials are of paramount importance in the success of a nanomedicine. Pressure may continue to grow for players and regulators to test, monitor, and determine their safety. In many circumstances, nanomaterials and nanomedicine remain relatively costly technologies without a well-established track record for reliability or success.
By maintaining communication with and educating the public, scientists could foster a degree of trust that will make the transition of any nanomedicine from research to commercial status much easier. Consumers could be more likely to accept nanomedicine products that they have followed and understood throughout their development than to accept products that they neither know nor understand and for which they must place their trust in companies and regulatory authorities. For example, founded or not on the pharmaceutical industry's business practices, the public's trust in pharmaceutical companies has always been somewhat lacking. Balanced regulations are likely to reassure the public of a nanodrug's health safety while not stifling the development of the product. A degree of transparency in both scientific development and the regulatory process coupled with public education and discussion is key to consumer acceptance of nanotechnologies in health care, and private companies should be aware of it when introducing new products and marketing existing nanotechnology-derived therapies. Early warnings of how and when to move ahead of the curve on ethical issues may enable companies to create new business opportunities.