Personalized medicine offers hope, but not today

Right now, the pharmaceutical industry counts on a time-honored practice to keep its coffers full. As things stand, if clinical testing shows that a drug is effective for some subjects with a given condition, it's given to everyone who qualifies for it, even though only half of such patients typically benefit.

Eventually, researchers hope to study such hit-or-miss methods with the more-precise techniques of personalized medicine, in which genetic screening or other tests help doctors isolate which patients will actually benefit from a drug. However, experts note that it could be quite some time before this approach actually becomes widespread.

Among the biggest obstacles, they say, is that pharmaceutical companies fear that personalized medicine will lower their sales. Another big issue is that insurance companies are presently reluctant to pay for the tests needed, as they can cost as much as a few thousand dollars each. Not only that, right now there's no standardized way of measuring whether the genetic tests themselves are being done accurately.

All told, given these issues, it could be decades before the use of personalized medicine becomes common, researchers suggest.

To learn more about personalized medicine:
- read this Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report item

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