PharmExec Blog

Study: Future of Personalized Medicine

PhysicianSymbol1An increased focus on targeted medicine has become a staple for all facets of healthcare, from drug developers to consumers to pharma companies. Gerson Lehrman and Bloomberg jointly commissioned a survey that gauged the reactions and predictions of this trend from 52 leading US physicians. The survey covered a number of topics to assess which areas would be most affected by the use of personalized medicine, the time frame for widespread adoption, and the overall framework for design and implementation.

Personalized medicine has been one of healthcare’s most anticipated and least understood treatment paradigms. Physicians remain optimistic regarding its future, however the 52 doctors surveyed differed in their views in its implications for therapeutic research and development (R&D). Patients, by contrast, were viewed as increasingly interested in embracing the therapy.

Physicians were asked in which therapeutic areas do they feel the use of personalized medicine—for example, the use of genetic testing to tailor drug therapy to an individual—would be most prevalent. Of the doctors surveyed, nearly 58 percent said oncology/hematology, followed closely by cardiology (48 percent), allergy and immunology (38.5 percent), endocrinology (32 percent), and rheumatology (nearly 29 percent). In contrast, doctors felt the therapy would be least common in orthopedic surgery and obstetrics/gynecology.

Clinicians disagreed, however, on whether financial incentives are strong enough to encourage widespread collaboration between developers, payers, consumers, and pharma. When asked, “How will the adoption of personalized medicine affect the priorities and processes for pharma/biotech R&D?” physicians’ anonymous responses ranged from, “More opportunity for profit will drive new genetic testing,” to “No effect.” (It should be noted that a greater percentage of doctors did feel that opportunities for profit and for developing new drugs would increase.)

The Cost of Adoption
Much like a new consumer technology or ‘green’ product, the limits to widespread adoption are directly affected by the costs to the patient or payer. This is backed up by the Lehrman/Bloomberg survey, in which nearly 81 percent of respondents felt the adoption rate was directly affected by the willingness of the patient or payer to pay. And even when personalized medicine is adopted, 79 percent of physicians feel it would be only narrowly embraced.

These numbers are based on several factors, not least of which is the collaboration between diagnostics companies, drug makers (including pharma companies and biotech firms), patients, and physicians, the combination of which is where survey respondents think the big push will come from. Several clinicians believed that therapeutic companies would continue to target known genetic situations where biomarkers are linked to disease. Others believed that the entire R&D paradigm would change to link effective therapy to individual patient genetic profiles. The biggest detriment to adoption seemed to fall on whether the right incentives are in place to foster collaboration between the therapeutic and diagnostic companies toward developing personalized medicine therapies—are the financial incentives strong enough to encourage the collaboration needed?

Overall, what is garnered from the Lehrman/Bloomberg survey on The Future of Personalized Medicine is that diagnostic and therapeutic companies will have to partner to champion wider adoption rates. It is this participation that will help to alleviate payer and patient concerns over paying for additional screenings as well as higher targeted therapy costs.

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 29, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    This is a very interesting piece on personalized medicine — which might also be called “custom-tailored medicine.” The big issue ahead in health care is to improve quality while reducing costs. Personalized medicine has an opportunity to do just that. Consider genomics for predicting some illnesses and establishing life style changes or medication prescriptions to ward off the likelihood of later illness. Or consider genomic data that will more specifically identify a tumor type or its prognosis and thus allow for more targeted or effective therapy. Diagnosis will improve with, for example, rapid microbiologic identification of infections allowing immediate specific therapy. Medications can be selected to avoid side effects (for example those who cannot metabolize 6MP) or to assure efficacy (avoid treating the patient whose genomics prevents response to albuterol.)

    These are just some of the opportunities to improve quality while reducing costs. When a company or physician can tell the patient that the cost of care will be less and at the same time that the likelihood of a successful outcome will be greater, then that is a win-win. This is the opportunity. It remains for firms to take it up and run with it.

    In my book, “The Future of Medicine – Megatrends in Healthcare” there is a much fuller discussion.

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