The Pros and Cons of Personalized Medicine

The Pros and Cons of Personalized Medicine
Is personalized medicine good or bad? (image source: freepik.com)

Personalized medicine (sometimes known as precision medicine) can save thousands of lives and reduce patient suffering. Studies show that personalized medicine therapies help effectively cure cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, it can reduce the need for surgery and chemotherapy by up to 75 percent, according to recent research by the Indiana Institute for Personalized Medicine.

On the one hand, personalized genetic medicine is revolutionizing how doctors treat patients, who can now receive prescribed treatments tailored to their genetic makeup.

But on the other hand, critics argue that it is unethical for pharmaceutical and biomedical companies to use such technology to sell drugs or cause side effects. They also contend that it is a violation of individual rights.

In this blog, we will look at the pros and cons of personalized medicine and answer the common question, “Is personalized medicine a good idea?”

Read in this article:

What is Personalized Medicine?

Personalized medicine¬†describes a medical technology approach to tailoring various treatments to an individual’s genetic makeup. Personalized medicine has been implemented in over ten areas of the U.S. healthcare system, including clinical trials, drug development, and patient care. President Obama launched the Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015 (learn more: PMI).

The emergence of genomics and digital health technologies (such as EMR and wearable devices) have enabled the ‘precision medicine’ approach to have great potential in the healthcare system. With the implementation of precision medicine, researchers can target what is beneficial for an individual patient with their genetic makeup and effectively adjust treatment.

Next, let’s look at the advantages of personalized medicine.

The Pros of Personalized Medicine

The main advantage of personalized medicine is that it is a more effective way to treat patients: doctors can prescribe gene-matched drugs, reducing the number of medications they must try until they find the right combination.

In addition, knowing a patient’s genetic makeup can reduce the risk of adverse drug reactions by 60 percent, which is particularly beneficial for older patients and children who are more susceptible to side effects.

Besides, scientific research shows that personalized genetic medicine helps patients manage their chronic diseases more effectively and reduces the risk of complications by 33 percent. As a result, many patients can avoid surgery and chemotherapy, lowering costs for the patient and the healthcare system.

The benefits of personalized medicine are so significant that the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommends that healthcare providers implement this innovative approach as early as possible. “The benefits of using a personalized medicine approach to cancer treatment outweigh the expense. There is growing evidence that these approaches are effective and safe and do not require extensive prior testing,” says ASCO CEO Dr. Clifford A. Hudis.

Here are more benefits that genomics and personalized medical care can bring:

  • Patients are more informed about their health condition. They are also more likely to play an active role in managing their disease and taking medications, which can result in better outcomes and enable them to live a longer, healthier life.
  • It helps reduce overtreatment. Many cancer patients are treated unnecessarily with various medications, surgical procedures, and tests because their doctor is unaware of their unique genetic makeup. Besides, personalized medicine helps determine which drug will work best for each patient.
  • Personalized medicine may help prevent disease and side effects. For example, doctors can use a patient’s genetic information to predict their risk of acquiring certain conditions, enabling them to implement preventive care. Personalized medical therapy may help patients avoid developing heart disease or diabetes.
  • It reduces healthcare costs. Studies show that precision medicine can reduce costs by $7,000 per patient and save $21 billion for the American healthcare system annually by 2025.
  • It brings greater patient satisfaction. According to a survey by Genentech, 67 percent of people prefer personalized medicine over traditional approaches.

The Cons of Personalized Medicine

While personalized medicine holds a lot of promise for the future, it also faces some challenges in being fully implemented.

One primary concern with personalized medicine is the direct-to-consumer commercialization of genetic tests and the potential for companies to misuse people’s genetic information. This effect is especially troubling when it comes to selling drugs, which is a big concern because many people already take medications as prescribed by doctors. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to establish strict regulations and policies on how this technology should be used.

The biggest concern is an imbalance of power between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers. It is unfair for these companies to take advantage of their patients.

They can use personal genetic information to sell their drugs, make more significant profits and market them more effectively. Meanwhile, patients must be more informed about how this technology works and its risks.

The technology still needs to be perfected. For example, personalized medicine has yet to be widely adopted for medications with very long treatment periods, like chemotherapy and radiation, with relatively low success rates.

Another concern is cybersecurity, as companies use people’s genetic information to develop drugs and sell them. Thus, the responsibility for ensuring their data is protected lies with patients. Since the technology is not perfect, patient data can be misused or hacked.

Personalized medicine can also lead to ethical concerns. Because it requires genetic information, it is difficult to protect patient privacy and autonomy. Privacy issues are particularly troublesome because personal genetic information can be used to determine their health condition, which may influence their wellness decisions.

Here are a few more drawbacks of personalized medicine:

  • Patients may not like it. It may not be a good idea to ask patients to participate in this research, as some experimental results have shown that personalized medicine is associated with negative experiences.
  • The cost of personalized genomic medicine can be high. It requires an up-front investment in equipment and materials, which is costly and can be offset if the patient opts out of the treatment. The PharmacyTimes predicted that 2 in 5 Americans would choose not to fill a prescription because of the cost.
  • It still needs to be further tested. There are many unknowns with personalized medicine, especially regarding the safety of drugs and procedures. Many technological processes still need to be fully developed and require further testing in clinical settings before they can be implemented.
  • It can be challenging to monitor genetic changes continuously. The effectiveness of a single treatment may last a few months and requires continuous monitoring due to the effect of interferons, the body’s natural reaction against cancer cells.

The Limits of Personalized Medicine

Personalized medicine is a great technology that can benefit most people. But, in reality, it may not be perfect.

Generally speaking, personalized medicine is limited by its ability to adjust to and treat specific patients. For example, if a patient has a rare genetic mutation, the therapy may not be able to target that mutation effectively. Another example will be if the patient is allergic to a particular drug that would not affect others with identical genetic makeup.

Furthermore, personalized medicine could also impact society in negative ways. For example, individuals who can afford it would have an unfair advantage over those who cannot. Also, the information generated by personalized genomics and biotechnology could be used in unethical ways.

However, in recent years, these issues have been addressed. For example, big pharmaceutical companies like Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, and Bristol-Myers Squibb prioritize working with genetic testing laboratories to identify and develop personalized care solutions.

Is Personalized Medicine a Good Idea?

Yes, personalized medicine is a good idea. However, it is still very early days for it. Therefore, we still do not know how to apply the best personalized medical therapies and how much they will cost the American healthcare system (especially Medicare).

Personalized medicine is an excellent idea because it will provide the defined therapy to patients who benefit most. For example, doctors can prescribe the best treatment/therapies for a patient with a specific genetic makeup and prevent harmful side effects.

Moreover, personalized medicine allows researchers to understand human genetics better and develop drugs for almost any condition. It is also less expensive than traditional medicine.

A precision medicine approach applies to many chronic diseases, including:

  • Asthma
  • Heart failure
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Wrapping Up

Despite its limitations and concerns, personalized medicine is an innovative medical technology that can benefit future generations. Ultimately, patients should be motivated to get the most out of their condition and find out about the available treatments.

As it is still early days for this technology, researchers are constantly evolving and developing better technology to address the concerns mentioned above.

We can only hope that this technology will be perfected one day to benefit all of us and the American healthcare system, which is having financial difficulties.

Eric Morkovich

Eric Morkovich

Eric is a MedCTO author and seasoned veteran of the IT industry, recognized for his ability to successfully manage software development projects and collaborate with remote tech teams. Since 2010, Eric and his team have delivered over 25 IT projects for healthcare and medical technology companies from North America and Europe. Eric is an honored author of mymanagementguide.com.

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