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Sep 1, 2009 (Vol. 29, No. 15)

Personalized Medicine Realizing Its Promise

As Evidence of Benefits Grows, Revision of Laws, Policy, Education, and Clinical Practices Is Needed

  • Improving Clinical Trials

    Developing a new drug is a costly and lengthy process. Theoretically, the use of pharmacogenomic data, or information about how patients’ genes affect their drug responses, could reduce the time and cost of drug development in addition to reducing the rate of drug failures by allowing researchers to focus on subsets of patient populations. Using genetic tests, researchers could select patients for studies, using those most likely to respond or least likely to suffer side effects. Enriching the clinical trial pool, as this approach is called, could reduce the size, time, and expense of clinical trials.

    The cost of healthcare in the U. S. is on an unsustainable upward climb. Incorporating personalized medicine into the fabric of the healthcare system can help resolve many embedded inefficiencies, such as trial-and-error dosing, hospitalization of patients who have severe reactions to a drug, late diagnoses, and reactive treatment.

    Specific examples of personalized medicine are generating tangible results about their economic benefit. Authors of a recent study exploring potential healthcare cost savings from using genetic testing estimated that the use of a genetic test to properly dose warfarin could prevent 17,000 strokes and 85,000 serious bleeding events each year and avoid as many as 43,000 visits to the emergency room. If the two million people that start taking warfarin each year were to be tested at a cost of $125 to $500 per patient, the overall cost savings to the healthcare system would be $1.1 billion annually.

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