Friday, October 2, 2009

Fantastic Future Friday: Personalized Medicine


With all the talk about “Socialized Medicine” coming from the Right-Wing, I’d like to use this week’s Fantastic Future Friday to highlight one of the Government’s plans for improving our nation’s health, and the rest of the worlds health by default.

Dr Francis Collins has been named the Head of the National Institutes of Health, and one thing he is passionate about is the idea of “Personalized Medicine”.

As head of the team that mapped the human genome, Dr Collins wants to use that information to specialize medicine to individuals instead of the current one size fits all.

As anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, people’s bodies react differently. A diet and exercise routine that will make one person lose weight at a rate of 5 to 7 lbs a week might make someone else following the exact same plan and lose 1 lbs over an entire month.

It’s the same thing with drugs and medicines, the current approach to medicine is to find what works with the greatest amount of people and use that on everyone with a particular illness, then vary it slightly to account for the person’s individual response.

Our current for-profit healthcare system encourages this practice, as industries believe in the economies of scale, basically if you can do something over and over again it gets cheaper on a per unit basis.

For an insurance company it is much more profitable if they can find a procedure that works on 51% of patients and deny treatment to the minority if testing to find what procedure works costs more than one and a half times the cost of treatment for the majority.

The better a treatment works on the whole, say 75% vs 25%, the more incentive the insurance company has to deny treatment to the minority.

That’s where personalized medicine comes in.

The grand idea is that you can look at a newborns genome and determine what risks they are predisposed to have. Then once doctors know what risks a person has they can tailor a specialized preventative treatment program for that individual to follow.

If you know someone is likely to have a heart attack, you can work to lower their risk all their life instead of waiting for them to have a costly and life threatening heart attack.

You can also determine before hand the odds of the mainstream treatment working on an individual, so you can determine the best treatment for that individual.

This information can work two ways, either the insurance companies can use this information to figure out the rates to charge people giving some people lower rates and telling the rest to please die quietly, or it can open up a brand new approach to personalized preventive medicine.

In the future personal genome mapping can be used to determine the best way for someone not to get sick, and when they do get sick the best treatment can be determined without intensive and expensive testing.

With this emphasis on a personal preventative approach to medicine will mean people will live longer healthier lives and the cost of treatment for individuals will drop.

So called “Socialized Medicine” will lead us into the field of “Personalized Medicine” and that will be a fantastic future.

2 comments:

askcherlock said...

Great thoughts on "Personalized Medicine." Maybe we should have you run for office so you can clarify those minds which are clouded by toxic rhetoric.

Project Savior said...

If it didn't take millions of dollars, I might consider it.