Conference Gives Pros, Cons of Personalized Medicine
Experts on the future of personalized medicine, including leaders in law, regulation, economics and ethics, recently told an audience at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law that it could revolutionize the American health care system.
Proof that the system is broken was evident from several statistics shared at a day-long conference, “Personalized Medicine and Molecular Diagnostics,” which drew more than 160 registrants. Among them: as few as 50 percent of patients respond favorably to the drugs prescribed by their doctors, and adverse drugs reactions in U.S. hospitals may be responsible for more than 100,000 deaths each year, making it one of the leading causes of death.
One potential solution is personalized medicine, which uses an individual’s genetic data to more accurately predict, diagnose and treat health problems.
“Because of the great variables among individuals, medicine must finally become a science, not an art,” said George Poste, director of The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.
Gary Marchant, executive director of the Center for the Study of Law, Science, & Technology, which co-sponsored the March 2 conference, said future legal liability faced by drug manufacturers and doctors is a potential driver of personalized medicine.
But ethical issues may hinder its embrace by the American public, said Mark Rothstein, director for Bioethics, Health Policy and Law at the University of Louisville.
For example, Rothstein asked, will the estimated 50 million Americans lacking health insurance have access to genetic testing and the benefit of new drugs? Will more people become uninsured because overall spending on drugs has greatly increased? Will the health care system deteriorate further due to a new burden on medical professionals to interpret and explain genetic data to their patients?
“I absolutely, totally, 100 percent agree – we ought to do the kinds of tests you describe,” Rothstein said. “But ethically, we have a responsibility not to ignore that (uninsured or underinsured) segment of our own population and the world’s population.”
Among other roadblocks to the development of personalized medicine is that genetic testing can be expensive, and many insurance companies refuse to reimburse doctors and hospitals for performing the tests.
“We pay $30,000, $40,000, $60,000 for a round of treatment, but we won’t pay $500 to know how to use it,” said Raymond Woosley, president and CEO of The Critical Path Institute, a Tucson-based non-profit that brings together scientists to improve the development of drugs.
Wayne Rosenkrans, chairman of the Washington, D.C.,-based Personalized Medicine Coalition, said the ability to link genetic information to disease predilection, diagnosis and treatment is critical to solving the American health-care crisis.
“The number one element that’s going to drive this forward is having a true coalition of forces,” working to educate patients, doctors and payors and speed the development and approval of drugs and diagnostic tools, Rosenkrans said.