Survey Shows Most Americans Not Familiar with Precision Medicine

Precision Medicine

Personalized medicine, or precision medicine, is a movement that could lead to better treatments for a wide range of cancer and other serious illnesses due to the use of personal patient factors that include individual a variability in genes, environment and lifestyle.

Typically, medications have been developed as something of a one-size-fits-all approach, but the movement of personalized medicine considers those personal factors that allow for a more targeted treatment plan. Precision medicine is seen by many as the future of treatment and has been the focus of research by multiple pharmaceutical companies, such as privately-held Progenity, Inc., which snagged $125 million in funding last year to advance its portfolio of powerful precision molecular diagnostics. This year pharma giant Roche struck a deal with San Francisco-based Syapse to advance precision medicine in oncology through software products and analytics solutions.

Personalized medicines are already on the market with newly approved CAR-T treatments and gene therapies. Currently, personalized medicines make up about 20 percent of all new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a January 2018 report by the Personalized Medicine Coalition. Some of the personalized medicines on the market include Novartis’ Kisqali (ribociclib), a selective cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, as well as Merck’s monster checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda (pembrolizumab) and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s rival drug OPDIVO (nivolumab).

Despite the advances in personalized medicine, a new survey of 1,001 Americans shows that the majority of most American are not familiar with the concept. The survey was conducted by the Personalized Medicine Coalition (PMC) and GenomeWeb.

Personalized medicines are designed for a smaller population of patients who are more likely to benefit from such a therapeutic approach. The idea, according to the Coalition, is the use of such therapies helps to ensure treatments are “targeted to only those patients who benefit from them, sparing the expenses and side effects associated with treating those who do not.”

According to the survey, 67 percent of Americans have never even heard the terms “personalized medicine” or “precision medicine,” the terms which are most often used to describe the new treatment focus. The survey goes on to point out that only 13 percent of respondents indicated they were “very informed” about the topic.

During the survey, when the concept of personalized medicine was defined for respondents, 67 percent gave a “mostly positive” reaction, while 32 percent were neutral on the idea. Most of those respondents said personalized medicine could provide “major” benefits to the U.S. healthcare system. Additionally, 82 percent of the survey respondents said they wanted to learn more about personalized medicine.

For Personalize Medicine Coalition President Edward Abrahams, the survey results indicate that continued education is necessary to ensure “informed conversations about how to maximize the use of health care resources.”

There are some concerns though. According to the survey results, 44 percent of respondents raised questions about side effects and safety of the treatments.  Another finding of the survey indicates that those who understand the concept of personalized medicine believe insurance companies should pay for the tests and treatments. The majority of concerns expressed by respondents were about insurance coverage, as well as costs and the “potential for discrimination based on personal health data.”

A summary of the results indicate that U.S. patients see the “shortcomings of the trial-and-error processes” for current treatment platforms and “see value in tools that can quickly identify which treatment is right for a patient,” the Coalition said.

“We cannot have informed conversations about how to maximize the use of our health care resources until we understand the role that personalized medicines — which now represent one of every four new drug approvals at FDA — can play in targeting those resources,” Abrahams said in a statement. “These survey results suggest that we have our work cut out for us when it comes to educating the public.”

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