We have been talking about Personalized Medicine for years. “Wouldn’t it be better if the medicine that I was taking was designed just for me?” We all know that personalized medicine would greatly benefit individual patients.
So how will we get there?
- Medical doctors will have to go back to treat patients as individuals. General practitioners have become commodities and have become institutionalized. It takes YEARS to find a practitioner that treats each patient as an individual and not like a case study in some dusty book on a shelf somewhere.
- Diagnostics will lead the way. The diagnostics side of the industry will be on the leading edge of making personalized medicine happen. There will have to be advanced diagnostics tests that can be used to finely hone in on sensitivities, allergies, reactions to drugs and the like. We can do part of this now, but it will become more specific as we approach a true individualized approach to medicine.
- Dosage forms will change. In order to personalize medicine, the patient will be the focus. The dosage forms will have to be easy to use and stable at room temperature. Earlier this year at the Interphex show, my colleague and I did a presentation on “disruptive technologies” and discussed many of the new dosage forms being developed; i.e. micro needle intradermal patches, medicines that dose according to your wearable devices, orally dissolving films and forms, etc. They are all aimed at making the patient’s lives better and easier and hopefully for less money. This will be key for getting a personalized medicine approach to the patient. Who wants to think so hard about taking a dosage at a certain time a day? Our seniors have to deal with this now and can tell you very specifically how difficult and annoying it is to have to set alarms to remember to take different medicines. Call your Grandmom. Ask her. Go ahead – you probably need to call her anyway.
- The pharmacists’ jobs will change. If this goes the way the industry is hoping, the pharmacies that we go to may go through a drastic change. What if an automated compounding and tableting machine can be made for the most common medicines and one tablet per day per patient can be made specifically for that patient? That is the hope. What if we can set differing dosage release times? There is technology coming out with that in mind.
- The wearable market is changing. All of that data that your fitness tracker can document is useful. The next generation of wearables are getting more sophisticated – some can detect blood sugar levels, others can detect electrical signature changes in the body. One of the ones that we have looked at lately can actually dose up to seven compounds at different times during the day. It looks like a large bandage. All of this technology can be put to use to provide the patient (or medical staff) with by-the-minute feedback.
- The equipment in the manufacturing facility will change. Personalized medicine will change the formulations of many medicines to be bio-available specifically for a given person. So instead of machines that will make large batches of a few formulations per year, the machines will need to be able to make small batches of many formulations per year. The cleaning steps between the batches will become more important.
The industry is on its way. Research and development within pharmaceutical companies and within educational institutions are rich with ideas and programs to get closer to the best medications for each of us. It will not happen immediately, the way the politicians want. Neither will it be costless. It is a delicate process, but it is good to see progress.