Several barriers are preventing the widespread use of personalized medicine, experts said Tuesday at a seminar in Washington hosted by research institute RTI International.
Panel: Tech not the only barrier to personalized medicine
"The future is already here—it's only unevenly distributed," said Edward Abrahams, president of the Personalized Medicine Coalition, which represents the academic, industrial, patient, provider and payer communities. Abrahams described personalized medicine as the tailoring of medical treatments to the characteristics of each patient and said the field's movement is being driven by the public's expectation for safer, more effective drugs and faster times for a cure. He also said the goal should be to link diagnostics with therapeutics to achieve better outcomes.
Bradford Hesse, chief of the National Cancer Institute's Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch, emphasized the importance of moving data across systems and mentioned the concept of "populemics," which integrates the knowledge of molecular sciences with population sciences. Hesse said about 50% of cancer deaths could be prevented through a variety of measures, including proper screening and personalized treatment.
During a question-and-answer period, the panelists identified the greatest challenges preventing personalized medicine from reaching its potential. Hesse said interoperability of data systems must be improved. Dr. Asif Dhar, the chief medical informatics officer at Deloitte Consulting, said there should be stronger partnerships between diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies. Abrahams cited the current regulatory and reimbursement systems as barriers to advancing personalized medicine. He called the regulatory system "unclear" and said diagnostic tests and drugs linked to diagnostic tests are less likely to be developed as reimbursement rates are pushed down. He also emphasized the need for provider education in the effort to advance patient-centered medicine.
"Even when there are products on the market which represent breakthroughs, they're not necessarily likely to be used without massive marketing efforts," Abrahams said. "That's unfortunate because those marketing efforts are very expensive. So physician-healthcare provider education is very important."
The forum was the fifth of seven seminars RTI will host on "emerging issues in science and society." The group will host one next week on pay for performance and healthcare reform.
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