Monday, May 9, 2011

The Business of Personalized Medicine

Angelo Bouselli, Senior Communications Manager, FasterCures

With the sequencing of the human genome, and the scientific and technological advances of the 21st Century, many say we are at the advent of personalized medicine. But realizing the full potential of “personalized medicine” continues to be met with many questions largely left unanswered: Is it applicable across a wide range of diseases or just for a select few? Is it economically sustainable to truly personalize care?

“Everyone has a very different experience with healthcare,” said Greg Simon of Pfizer Inc., setting the stage for an engaging discussion on personalized medicine at the 2011 Milken Institute Global Conference.

Laura Esserman, Director, Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center, Professor of Surgery and Radiology, University of California San Francisco said, “We need to learn how to treat disease and cancer better. We have learned that some cancers are biologically designed to kill and for those cancers, we need to treat them aggressively and immediately. Survival depends on giving the right drug at the right time, to the right person.

Paul Billings of Life Technologies echoed Esserman’s point and said that it’s about infrastructure and we need on that “will enable us to learn as we go.” “Personalized medicine can be a great thing if we put it in a framework we can learn from,” he said. We are improving care but we are still learning how to best apply the technologies to improve clinical decision making. “We need to educate patients that being involved in research makes a difference and provides better care.”

Panelists agreed that a system that combines data from the clinical care setting should be combined with the system that enables research to move forward.

“We need a connected research and care system that continually learns and improves on patient treatment and care,” said Esserman. “All of the information in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to use it.”

Scott Jenkins of Dell agreed, noting that “electronic health records can assist in collecting and sharing valuable health information to improve treatment and care,” but that records alone aren’t the solution. He said patients play a major role and need to recognize the “value of sharing medical information and how this improves care.”

“We need to educate the general public to participate in medical research. It’s not just the patients that are struggling; the physicians are struggling to provide care. The entire system needs to be retooled.” Ricardo Guggenheim of McKesson Health Solutions said.

Personalized medicine, concurred the panel, starts with personal accountability for health decisions and greater patient participation in the research process.

Watch a video of the session.

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