Isn’t all medicine personal? Doctor and patient, hopefully yes, but what about drug development? Does all of the prescription drug development generally benefit everyone? Or is it specialized to meet the specific needs of segments of the population that are not being currently addressed?
A little known and small component of President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal is the $215 million Precision Medical Initiative, an ambitious plan for biomedical research for treatments tailored to the genetic makeup of individuals.
Many of the current breakthroughs stem from successful mapping of the human genome, completed in 2003. This trend has benefited from significant declines in the cost of genome sequencing. What used to cost many millions of dollars—decoding one person’s genome—can now be done for around $1000. Using the human genetic code, more scientific research is focused on specific segments of the population, whether for rare diseases or components of more common diseases. As the world become increasingly connected by mobile technologies and electronic records, storing mass amounts of data is easier and cheaper than it once was.
This in turn enables the pharmaceutical industry to develop and concentrate on new medications to focus on our most important needs.
As is the case with most prescription drug development, these specialty medications come with a high price tag. At this point, because these drugs are usually considered part of targeted therapy, they are generally covered by private insurers and Medicare as they account for a very small share of overall health care spending. Over time, however, as these targeted drugs become more prevalent in the treatment of diseases, will they still be covered by insurers?
Relative to the size of a $4 trillion budget, the Precision Medical Initiative is tiny. It does have bipartisan support. Advocates say the payoffs could be very big both for improving basic scientific knowledge and finding ways to personalize medical treatments.
For additional information, contact EAB HealthWorks.