How Precision Medicine Is Working For You

At the end of January, President Obama made his State of the Union address and officially announced his plans to launch a, “new precision medicine initiative to bring us closer to curing diseases like cancer and diabetes,” and to give the U.S access to the personalized information needed to keep people and their families healthier.

So, what exactly is precision medicine and how does it impact you as a patient?

At its core, precision medicine is a model that focuses on how healthcare can be customized to each individual through a number of specialized tests including genetic testing.

Here are some examples:

  • an oncologist finding the precise chemotherapy drug to treat a tumor
  • a cardiologist getting an effective medication and correct dosing for managing high blood pressure
  • a nutritionist knowing if their client can absorb enough fatty acids nutrients from your fish intake before creating a diet plant
  • a naturopathic doctoring deciding on Vitamin D supplementation knowing  if a patient will make enough Vitamin D from their skin from sunlight
  • a trainer learning if exercise will alter a client’s cholesterol level

This model hopes to one day create a system where the way you receive care will be tailored to your individual genetic makeup, environment and lifestyle so that you’re being set up for success when it comes to your health.

TELUS Health Blog Post Image 2At TELUS Health, we’re passionate about improving the care that Canadians receive and their overall health and on March 25, we hosted our annual drug conference in Toronto to bring Canadian healthcare leaders, insurance providers and other stakeholders together to talk about trends and issues facing the Canadian healthcare system and how we can work together to achieve these goals.

As part of that conference, Dr. Ruslan Dorfman from GeneYouIn Inc. took the stage to talk about precision medicine and how this advancing technology can help reduce the risk of death related to common diseases like Alzheimer’s and stroke, improve the way we receive care and reduce the cost to our healthcare system associated with certain chronic illnesses (i.e. diabetes). The chart below from 2011 was presented by Dr. Dorfman and will give you some idea of what that looks like:

Cause of death in Canada (2011) # of cases % Cost of disease
Cancer 72,476 29.9 $157B
Heart disease 47,627 19.7 $193B
Stroke 13,283 5.5
Chronic lower respiratory diseases 11,184 4.6
Accidents 10,716 4.4 $176B
Diabetes 7,194 3 $109B
Alzheimer’s disease 6,356 2.6
Influenza and pneumonia 5,767 2.4
Suicide 3,728 1.5
Kidney disease 3,294 1.4 $157B

GeneYouIn Inc. is one of a few companies in Canada that have ventured into the world of genetic testing. As drug response varies from person-to-person, genetic testing hopes to ultimately predict a person’s individual response to some of the most commonly prescribed medications related to the most commonly experienced and shared conditions – cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental health issues and more.

According to the Federal Drug Administration, adverse drug reactions are the 4th leading cause of death, ahead of pulmonary disease, diabetes, AIDS, pneumonia, accidents, and automobile deaths.

Today, with pharmacogenetics, we can understand how our bodies break down medications. It is the most objective way to prescribe a medication. We know which blood pressure medications will work better for you, and what type of pain medications will give you relief. More important, we can predetermine which drugs will cause unpleasant side effects or not work at all at certain doses. So you don’t need to become a drug experiment waiting to happen in the medical office or in the emergency department. Indeed, you no longer have to be your own lab rat!

Have you ever taken a genetic test? What was your experience like and what were you hoping to find?