Personalized Healthcare: Helping to Overcome Complex Problems
Customized healthcare as solution to deal with an aging population and rising costs
In all Western societies, demographic development with an aging population and a decreasing birth rate in most industrialized countries calls for new approaches in healthcare. Steeply rising healthcare costs – not only in absolute numbers, but even in terms of percentage of GDP – clearly need a counterbalance in order to let healthcare remain affordable. A paradigm shift from “payment for procedure” towards “payment by performance” is clearly underway.
This is all the more necessary as such performance turns out to be a highly individual matter. Depending on the type of illness, half or more of all therapy efforts and spending may well be wasted because individual patients don’t respond to the respective therapy or even develop adverse effects calling for additional measures.
The ability to correctly predict the outcome of a therapy is critical to each individual patient’s well-being, and to the overall affordability of the healthcare system.
Personalized medicine is often called “the right treatment for the right patient at the right time”. In order to live up to this promise, individual differences in patients, their situation and indeed their genetic profile have to be taken into account. This in turn calls first for becoming aware of these factors, next for anticipating their reaction to certain drugs and then to overcome potential complications or adverse effects.
The development of diagnostic tests to accompany personalized medicine is referred to as “companion diagnostics’”. Here, molecular assays that measure levels of proteins, genes or specific mutations are used to provide information for a therapy specific to an individual’s condition.
The benefits of companion diagnostics are varied and powerful. Risk assessments can be carried out for each individual patient. Conditions can be detected at an early stage, allowing earlier intervention and improving the chances of complete healing. Indeed, diagnoses can now be made more accurate, since the same symptoms may be traced back to different underlying causes, allowing for specific, prompt and effective therapy.
Customized healthcare – or personalized medicine – provides answers to a wide range of questions ask by all groups concerned: patients, physicians, payers and regulators.
What they all have in common is the concern about the safety of a drug or treatment; about side effects and how to avoid them; about the effectiveness for just this one patient at this precise point in time; and of course about the cost-effectiveness of any measure. After all, each percentage point of failed effectiveness may well translate into 7-digit costs on the scale of a national health service or insurance company.
In this perspective, the cost of personalized medicine is more than offset by the potential savings, let alone the benefits for each individual patient. Doing research in this area, finding applicable solutions and carrying them out in actual practice are very beneficial activities R-Biopharm is proud to engage in.
Picture source: Brian B. Spear, Margo Heath-Chiozzi, Jeffrey Huff, “Clinical Trends in Molecular Medicine, Volume 7, Issue 5, 1 May 2001, Pages 201-204