The Future of Personalized Healthcare

Every day people spend around a thousand billion dollars on healthcare globally; however, studies show that standard drugs don’t necessarily benefit a diverse group of patients suffering from the same illness. For instance, according to experts at PMC (Personalised Medicine Coalition),  in case of cancer, 75% of drugs are ineffective for patients. This implies that much wealth is being squandered to obtain a medicine that doesn’t work.

An ineffective medicine might not be so much of a hindrance for common ailments like cold, cough, etc. Such is not the case of complex diseases like diabetes, cancer, alzheimer’s, vascular diseases, etc. These diseases are termed complex because of their differing behaviors in different individuals. 

So, the practice of applying the same treatment to multiple individuals must be done away with. We must move forward into a world that embraces personalized healthcare or precision medicine, as some call it.

The concept and framework:

We have come a long way from the past when trial and error was the norm. A time when a  physician was left to wonder why a prescribed drug was not yielding results, and then try another one in hopes of getting positive results. A patient could well succumb to this trial and error before any positive results were underway.

We have brushed past this practice as technology now allows us to diagnose by testing. By combining technology and healthcare, humanity has realized many milestones that would’ve seemed impossible decades earlier.

Unfortunately, as we’re advancing, so are our diseases. Gone are the days when a single mutant genome gave rise to a single disease. Now, the diseases are too complicated to categorize and dispense standard treatments. 

For instance, Autism is something we hear a lot about. However, the research to fully understand its cause and effect is still far from complete. So far, it is estimated that 800 different mutations could cause autism, which is evident from the wide array of behaviors children with autism exhibit.

So, the question is, how do we tackle such complex diseases? The solution is Personalized Medicine!

Precision medicine makes use of genetic information to uncover the innate disorders or dormant diseases in a particular patient. The study of genetics for prescribing the right diagnosis is a revolutionary advancement in clinical medicine. Pharmacogenomics involves studying the human genome to better deduce the most suitable drug for a certain individual. Similarly, Proteomics is the extensive study of proteins synthesized in a certain human body; understanding these, puts all the right metrics in place for prescribing a drug that is sure to work for an individual and that individual alone. Such personalization is absolutely necessary to handle today’s various complex diseases.

Applications of Precision Medicine:

Personalized medicine has many applications that enable to approach an individual and their genome. It provides better diagnoses by allowing targeted therapies. Tailored drug prescription, drug development, pharmacy compounding, therapy diagnostics, respiratory proteomics, and cancer genomics are some of its major applications. 

Personalized medicine helps in identifying dormant symptoms for diseases that do not show any effects well until they become highly malicious. It can be employed to efficiently deal with cancers that vary due to genetics.

Its many utilities and benefits like increased cost-savings for both patients and pharma companies, reduced failure rates of pharmaceutical clinical trials, effective drugs, and negligible side effects make precision medicine a reliable and popular medical model.

Challenges & the Way forward:

In 2018, Personalized Medicine Market was valued at USD 96.97 billion and is estimated to reach USD 217.90 billion by 2026. However, it must be noted that the concept of personalized medicine is not a modern innovation. It has been around since the late 1950s. The main reasons that hindered its adoption into our healthcare industry until recently were technology and cost. 

Human Genome Sequencing, a major part of personalized medicine, once cost millions of dollars. Now, the era has shifted to New Generation Sequencing(NGS), where this can be afforded at around a few thousand dollars.

More and more patients are actively taking part in NGS in cognizance with their healthcare professionals. So, issues like lack of awareness of technology or high cost of procedures, or lack of expertise in the field are conveniently brushed aside. However, there remain a few intrinsic challenges like patient privacy and confidentiality, intellectual property rights, and regulatory oversight that will require some unified effort from all stakeholders.

Nevertheless, Personalized Healthcare or Precision Medicine is the way to a healthy tomorrow. It must be adopted as the standard in all our clinical procedures. Precision medicine not only betters the quality of life of a patient but also betters the confidence of physicians. It appends better clarity and results in an increasingly uncertain and complicated landscape of ailments. All in all, this kind of tailored care is the future of healthcare.

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