State of the Union Calls for More Investments in Personalized Medicine

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama did not spend a lot of time discussing healthcare, but he did highlight medical research and a growing field of medicine by announcing his new Precision Medicine Initiative.

In Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama did not spend a lot of time discussing healthcare, but he did highlight medical research and a growing field of medicine by announcing his new Precision Medicine Initiative.

However, the president did not outline the initiative or what the cost of it will be. His fiscal 2016 budget, which should detail the program more, will be released on February 2.

Precision medicine, also called personalized medicine, does away with the “one-size-fits-all” approach to medicine. Instead, precision medicine targets the individuals who will benefit most from treatment by identifying the genetic cause for a disease in a specific group of people. In particular, oncology could benefit the most from the field of precision medicine.

“I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to lead a new era of medicine: one that delivers the right treatment at the right time,” Mr Obama said in his address. “I’m launching a new Precision Medicine Initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes and to give all of us access to the personalized information we need to keep ourselves and our families healthier.”

At the European Society for Medical Oncology 2014, September 25-20 in Madrid, Spain, researchers highlighted the challenges facing wider adoption of personalized medicine including the cost of development for these medicines, the access to clinical trials, and the availability of molecularly targeted drugs.

Following the State of the Union address, Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a former advisor to the White House on healthcare reform appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to discuss his concerns about the assumption that technology will quickly cure diseases and cut costs.

"I would be skeptical that precision therapy will be how we control costs," Dr Emanuel said.

The president’s call for more funding in medical research comes just one week after JAMA published data revealing that while global medical research investment is up, the rate of investment in the United States is down.

From 1994-2004, total US funding increased 6% per year, but that rate of growth declined to just 0.8% per year from 2004-2012. The US share of global government research funding declined from 57% in 2004 to 50% in 2012 of the global total. Meanwhile, Asia has tripled investments from 2004 to 2012.

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