Personalized Medicine: A New Approach To Care

A new era of health care is on the rise – one focused on personalized medicine. The opportunities and benefits that could come from this rise are tremendous.

Personalized medicine, also called precision medicine or genomic medicine, can help a patient not only treat existing conditions, but also act preemptively by assessing which conditions or diseases one may be more at risk for due to family history and genetic predisposition.

“Research suggests that humans have somewhere between 99 and 99.9 percent in common with each other. The remaining 1 percent can make a big difference when it comes to health, whether it is resistance or susceptibility to disease, or treatment.” – Yvette Brazier, Medical News Today

In 2014, one out of every five medicines approved by the FDA was a targeted therapy. We’ll talk more in this blog post about how these personalized therapies work, and how they can impact how patients are treated moving forward.

Personalized Medicine: How Does It Work?

In a survey conducted in 2013 by GfK, 27% percent of people interviewed had heard of personalized medicine. Had you?

Personalized medicine means “medicine based on genomic makeup.” This type of treatment determines risk level based on molecular profiles created using genetic testing and by gathering information about the patient’s lifestyle, environment, and family medical history.

This field of medicine allows healthcare providers to better treat patients, as they are able to detect whether the patient will respond better to certain types of medication over other previous therapies that have been used on all patients regardless of their molecular-level differences.

Testing helps to create a map of a patient’s own unique molecular makeup by studying DNA, RNA, and protein. Biomarkers identified can be detected through a blood draw, microscopic analysis, biopsy, gene sequencing or protein analysis, and can be used to minimize uncertainty in clinical care. By identifying these biomarkers, specific medicines can be chosen over others based on their likeliness to be effective.

Personalized Medicine Benefits

This testing allows healthcare providers to gather information that can determine what exactly a patient’s individual health needs consist of or reveal if a patient is at risk for certain conditions. With this information, healthcare providers can create either a preventative plan for their patient that minimizes the risk of disease to begin with or a treatment plan that offers the best possible route to recovery.

Using biomarkers helps doctors see what types of medicines and dosages will be best compatible with the patient. This method of medicating is useful in avoiding the risk of adverse drug reactions, and allows providers to act with more precise and effective treatment options.

The Alternative

Historically, most providers have followed the typical recommendations noted by the accepted standard of care. This approved set of practices is used to treat all patients with the same medications and methods, while leaving room for many to experience a lack of improvement with regard to their health.

“Most often today, your treatment plan doesn’t have all that much to do with you specifically. It’s identical to what doctors would hand over to essentially anyone with the same condition — your neighbor, the hot dog vendor at Wrigley Field, or the prime minister of Bangladesh.” – Genome

Though the practices within this standard of care are accepted because they historically work for the majority of patients, many patients can be caught in a cycle of trial and error when the accepted methods aren’t the best for their bodies. This cycle can be frustrating or upsetting for the patient, especially when conditions do not improve.

Moving Personalized Medicine Forward

In a public opinion survey conducted in 2014, 63% of those surveyed favored health insurance covering personalized medicine. There is great opportunity to be explored in this precision medicine, as treatments will only become more targeted and more effective for the patients that need them.