This new era of personalized medicine is driven by the field of pharmacogenetics, which is the study of genetics in relation to the metabolic pathways that affect each individual’s reaction to drugs, in order to determine predispositions to treatments that will cause adverse effects as well as treatments that can yield positive responses.
Benefits of Pharmacogenetics
Pharmacogenetics is a game changer for the provision of health care services.
The knowledge of each patient’s DNA now empowers the medical professional to customize medical treatment to each individual. For the first time ever, doctors may now match each patient with the right drug, at the right dose, at the right time. This not only enhances the positive effects of drug treatments, but also dramatically reduces the possibility of prescribing drugs that will result in adverse physical reactions. This fast-growing field has already helped usher in a new era of personalized medicine.
Personalized medicine has been technologically feasible since 2010.
In 2010 FDA pronounced its “Regulatory Science Initiative” which was a four-part strategic framework to lead a major effort in advancing regulatory science around the nation. One of the key points of this initiative was to stimulate innovation in clinical evaluations and personalized medicine to improve product development and patient outcomes.
Patients can benefit from better drugs, as well as new diagnostic and prognostic tools.
According to PMC “The Case for Personalized Medicine”, 4th Edition 2014, “The great opportunity for personalized medicine is its potential to introduce new scientific, business, and medical models. Segmenting populations into groups of patients who have a greater likelihood of responding to a particular treatment or avoiding side effects not only can change the dynamic of drug development but also the practice of medicine. Patients can benefit from better drugs, as well as new diagnostic and prognostic tools.”
Pharmacogenetics also has the potential to drastically reduce treatment costs for patients and healthcare professionals.
For example, cancer drugs can cost upwards of $10,000 to $20,000 for every round of treatment. Genetic screening or sequencing can give oncologists a better idea of how a patient will react to a treatment and thereby help direct their choice. Instead of having to pass through several rounds of ineffective treatments, oncologists can choose a customized plan. While this may mean a more expensive initial treatment, tens of thousands can be saved by bypassing poorly matched drugs. If $25,000 can be saved per patient, $120 billion could be saved in the treatment of 600,000 individuals. This gross oversimplification speaks to the powerful financial impact made possible by this field, the applications of which is not only limited to cancer. The same goes for many other costly diseases like diabetes, glaucoma, arthritis or Crohn’s disease. Furthermore, with increased knowledge of individuals’ responses to medication, pharmacogenetics is leading biotech companies to target medication and drug therapies to specific genetic needs. In psychiatry, for example, pharmacogenetics are being used more and more to customize anti-depressants and anti-psychotics to particular patient profiles.