Can you remember how many Tylenols you have swallowed last time to conquer the brutal flu that hijacked your sleep? Yes, most of the time the medicines we use do work, but not always. It is that “not always” times when personalized medicine ushers in to precisely diagnose the ultimate reason behind a disease and tailor an invincible treatment plan for the concerned patient. “One size fits all” motto in our current health-care culture will soon be extinct if more researches on personalized medicine come to fruition. Precision medicine, also known as personalized medicine or genomic medicine, aims at precisely detecting the exact reasons behind a disease and subsequently devise a treatment plan that is accurate and effective.
Personalized or Precision Medicine:
Personalized Medicine implies “medicine based on genomic makeup”. What does this mean? Wikipedia defines personalized medicine as “a medical model that proposes the customization of healthcare — with medical decisions, practices, and/or products being tailored to the individual patient.” This definition is easy to understand, but he National Human Genome Research Institute asserts that personalized medicine focuses on an “individual’s genetic profile to guide decisions made in regard to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease.” With the successful and complete sequencing of human genome in 2003, scientists have a clear understanding of all the genes in the human body. This discovery is a major step in the development of personalized medicine. Simply put, precise screening of the genes in a human body can help the doctors detect the different markers for terminal diseases that a person carries within. The outcome? Very simple! Doctors can then accurately plan a treatment and significantly lower the risk of being attacked by that disease. Isn’t prevention way better than cure?
Patients’ Benefits and Personalized Medicine:
Typically, a patient goes through several tests, and then more tests, and more tests, and the doctor finally develops a therapy based on the results of those tests. Sometimes, if not always, the therapy does not work, and the patient is offered more different tests. Just think about the sad realities faced by cancer patients: cameo therapy is a must, even though both the doctors and the patients are certainly not certain whether the therapy would work or not. Personalized medicine help us to forget these “ifs and buts” as it promises that the treatment will be effective. Personalized medicine targets the ultimate reason behind a disease and significantly reduces the possibility of toxicity or reaction that a prescribed medicine may trigger in a patient. Moreover, it is also a commonplace that after years of treatment cancer cells often attack the patient and doctors may fail to provide effective medicine to control it if they do not know the reason. If they can detect the biomarkers or genes responsible for the disease, a successful treatment is highly possible. Who would opt for cameo therapy if some pills can do the magic work?
Providers and Precision Medicine:
Health insurance providers want effective treatment at the most affordable costs, and personalized medicine can significantly cut the cost by reducing the unnecessary tests and trial medicines. Personalized medicine as a mechanism has already become attractive to insurance providers mostly because it avoids the use of any drugs without first determining whether these will work or not. This remarkably reduces the cost by avoiding wastage
For patients, personalized medicine promises the opportunity to benefit from the most effective treatment that targets the fundamental driver of their disease, while also potentially avoiding toxicity. For payers, personalized medicine is attractive as a mechanism to control usage of expensive drugs, and avoid wasteful expenditure on treatments that are ineffective. The trial and error culture with patients’ life on the line can be replaced with the more patient-centric medical model that personalized medicine advocates, and the insurance providers will happily invest in further developing this model. However, personalized medicine might not be as attractive to the big pharma industry as it is to patients and insurance providers. Although this model can help pharmacists in producing the right drug for the right patients to be sued at the right time, it will cut back revenues dramatically. Currently available non-specific medications will be totally replaced resulting in banning the production of most of the over-the-counter drugs.
Personalized Medicine and Future:
Researchers, health insurance providers, doctors and patients alike are opting for a personalized approach to medicine with the solidified hope that prevention is better than cure. Personalized medicine emphasizes that every disease, like every person, is unique, so should be the treatment. Same disease attacks different persons differently because of their genomic differences. Different lifestyles as well as different environments are also prioritized by doctors who practice personalized medicine. As of now, personalized medicine does not have any regulated guidelines imposed on it: big pharmaceuticals companies see it as a great opportunity to develop and deliver sophisticated drugs at lucrative prices.