The Personal Side of Medicine

Personalized medicine has a promising future and a lot of companies are investing in the development of new treatments.

PhRMA StaffFebruary 17, 2011

Perhaps you have seen an especially moving column on Forbes's Web site that is getting a lot of attention - and rightfully so. It's going to run in their paper issue next week, but the way it's spreading around the Web like wildfire, I have a feeling everyone will have seen it by then.

It was written by a woman named Adriana Jenkins, who since penning the column passed away from cancer at the age of 41. In her column, acknowledging her impending and untimely death, she speaks highly of the medicine that gave her nine years of life following her initial diagnosis. She began taking the medicine when it was still investigative by enrolling in the clinical trial.

The medicine that kept her alive, Herceptin, is a personalized medicine. This means that physicians can know, by testing the genetic information of the patient or their tumor, whether the medicine will work for them prior to prescribing it. Personalized medicine allows for more confident treatment decisions by helping to predict if a medicine will work or if it will cause side effects and by helping to avoid "trial and error" treatment.

In her column, Ms. Jenkins hailed the work done in the field of personalized medicine research, but said she wished more could be done.

Our companies are working to make that wish a reality. In fact, investment in personalized medicine research has never been higher. According to a recent Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development Impact Report, 94 percent of surveyed companies are investing in the field, and a full 100 percent use personalized medicine approaches such as biomarkers to evaluate compounds in the discovering process. As Ms. Jenkins notes, there are still many scientific, regulatory, and health system hurdles to overcome before we achieve the full potential of personalized medicine.

Ms. Jenkins's column also urged Congress to "ensure that future patients get the same chance to live." Personalized medicine may offer the promise of groundbreaking new medicines across the spectrum of diseases, but innovation-friendly policies are needed to allow for this tremendous investment, which is significantly higher for personalized medicine than for conventional biopharmaceutical development, according to Tufts.

On Personalized Medicine Coalition's blog, coalition president Ed Abrahams writes of another promise: "This year PMC will redouble its efforts to advance the understanding and adoption of personalized medicine concepts and products for the benefit of patients like Adriana." This story and the PMC's call to action are reminders that we need to work together to deliver on the potential of science.

We write daily about the importance of what we do, but really it is the brave people like Ms. Jenkins whose lives tell the whole story.

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