People are different. This is a fact that has been stressed on people of all walks of life since time immemorial. Usually, the statement is used to describe the social differences in people, but people are equally different biologically. Interestingly however, many similar drugs are used to treat people regardless of their biological differences.
This is what makes some treatments so ineffective in some and exceedingly effective in others. Researchers and scientists are only starting to discover just how immensely the differences in genetics, environment, and lifestyle affect how people respond to various treatments.
Precision medicine is based on the argument that different people respond differently to treatment. It focuses on treating each person according to the various set of factors that determine how they respond to medicines. And therein lies the efficiency of this mode of treatment.
Admittedly, precision medicine is a relatively new mode of treatment that has barely found its feet. However, a lot of monetary and human resources have been set aside to help establish this mode of treatment. Although it may take decades to realize the full benefits of precision medicine, the benefits will far outweigh the cost of their realization.
Statistics show that many people use medicines that are of no use to them health-wise. A study was carried out to help determine the effectiveness of some of the highest grossing medicines in the United States. Researchers found out that some drugs benefit one out of four people who use them, while others benefit only one out of the twenty five people who use them. It gets worse.
Another study conducted to determine the effectiveness of a drug that is used to help lower bad cholesterol levels in people was found to help only one out of fifty people. Imprecise medicine is without doubt very costly and wasteful.
From the above findings, one can infer that a vast majority of the population simply accumulate a plethora of chemicals in their bodies that do them no good at all. It is also equally important to note that the drugs are not entirely unhelpful, but that certain people respond better to them than others.
Precision medicine seeks to identify the reasons why this difference exists, and then to use that knowledge to help improve treatment by prescribing the medications that actually work best for a specific individual.
The current advances being made by scientists in the study of genetics will certainly go a long way in propelling precision medicine. Genetics is one of the core factors that determine how people respond to medicine. For instance, an interesting study was conducted to determine how various people respond to the drug Erbitox.
Erbitox is a drug that is meant to increase the survival and quality of life of those who suffer from colorectal cancer. The study revealed that people who suffer from this cancer and whose tumorous cells carry the mutated EGFR gene responded better to this drug than those who suffer from the same cancer, but whose tumorous cells carry a mutated KRAS gene.
In the same breath, a drug known as Gleeves, which is used to help those who suffer from leukemia, was proven to double the survival rates of those who have a chromosomal abnormality called Philadelphia translocation. Nothing illustrates the need for precision medicine better than that.
Execution Of Precision Medicine
There is no denying the fact the execution of precision medicine is an uphill task. The first step of the process is to closely monitor patients. All data relevant to a person’s treatment will need to be taken consistently and frequently, and over the course of a long period of time, perhaps years or months.
Then when the need arises, certain drugs that are unidentified to the person will be administered to them, and their effects monitored and studied. Patterns and conclusions will be drawn with time, and that will help identify why a certain group of people respond to treatment as they do.
Over time, more of these markers will be identified and it will much faster and easier to prescribe the correct medication or treatment for each individual based on the culmination of data.
What Are The Benefits Of Precision Medicine?
1. More Effective
The single greatest benefit that comes with precise medication is that efficiency is immensely increased. Once scientists and researchers identify what medicines work best for whom, it will reduce wastage of time and resources.
Additionally, if healthcare providers can administer medicines with the certainty that the drugs are effective, it can greatly alleviate the suffering of many patients.
2. Better Approaches To Disease Prevention
Another benefit of precision medicine is that it will help scientists understand not just how certain diseases occur, but also how those diseases can be prevented. Even better, precision medicine will help physicians be better able to diagnose diseases and treat them.
3. Electrical Health Records
Since observation of trends is invaluable to precision medicine, it is vital that records be kept in an organized and easily accessible way. And what better way is there to store massive data than in an electronic way?
Even better is the fact that this data can be easily accessed by doctors from all over the country with remarkable ease. This will certainly contribute to provision of better healthcare services.
Challenges to Precision Medicine
Given the novelty of precision medicine, it comes as no surprise that there are myriad challenges to be overcome before this form of treatment becomes fully integrated into the healthcare system.
First on the list is the interest of most pharmaceutical companies. Many such companies are less concerned with how effective their drugs are to individuals. Instead, they are focused on manufacturing drugs that can be used by people by the millions.
Secondly, not many clinicians are willing to venture into the unorthodox trials that are required in precision medicine research. There is no denying the fact that implementing precision medicine will initially be very expensive.
Precision Medicine Conclusion
Despite the seemingly overwhelming challenges, there is no doubt that precision medicine will one day be the main form of treatment in the country. Although the initial cost may be extremely high, it will save a lot of money in the long term.
Not only that, but the lives of many will also be improved, since they will be taking only medicines that are bound to alleviate their conditions. Precision medicine is certainly the future of medicine, not only in any one country, but the world as a whole.