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US President launches ‘precision medicine’ initiative

U.S. President Barack Obama launched a new Precision Medicine Initiative to help cure diseases like cancer and diabetes

Source: Mykhaylo Palinchak / Shutterstock.com

US President Barack Obama said precision medicine “delivers the right treatment at the right time”

Precision medicine got a shot in the arm on 20 January 2015, when US President Barack Obama launched a Precision Medicine Initiative to help cure diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Delivered in his State of the Union address to the nation, the initiative is likely to involve increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, a government agency that already committed to genomics-related research.

Obama said this type of medicine “delivers the right treatment at the right time” which, for cancer patients, means that genomic sequencing of their tumours helps physicians choose the most appropriate drug treatment.

Not everyone is on board, however.

“The case for major new government funding for particular types of medical research is problematic, and there’s no guarantee that such an initiative will prove fruitful,” says Scott E Harrington, professor of health care management at the Wharton School.

Harrington questions the government’s entry into the field of genomics when substantial incentives already exist for private companies to research and identify genetic links to diseases.

“Targeting therapies to those that benefit the most can have significant beneficial health, and potentially economic, consequences,” says Michael E Chernew, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, noting that there’s a lot of research to do to make this dream a reality.

“The challenge is doing that research efficiently and balancing it against other important research priorities,” he says. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20067680

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