Although healthcare wasn’t a central focus during the most recent State of the Union, one topic that the President did raise was precision medicine. Then, he raised the issue again in his budget proposal this past Monday, requesting a $215 million investment for what he is referring to as The Precision Medicine Initiative. If granted, the funds would be distributed among the National Institutes of Health, the body in charge of research and development, the Food and Drug Administration, in charge of treatment regulation, and the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology who is overseeing the rollout of electronic medical records, another crucial element of precision medicine.
Image by Shawn Campbell used under CC license. https://www.flickr.com/photos/thecampbells/
So what exactly is this initiative all about? Essentially the goal is to gain better insight into what makes patients unique through the variations in their DNA. This knowledge would allow a doctor not only to be able to identify whether patients have a predisposition to develop a particular disease or condition, thereby helping them prevent it, but also to have a better understanding of which treatments will work on each patient. Currently, physicians are using trial and error in order to treat diseases, a method which can prove to be expensive and frustrating for patients, as they may go through years without seeing results while still paying for the treatment and experiencing side effects.
The hope is that eventually physicians will be able to store information about patients’ DNA in their electronic medical record in order to more easily determine which cures might work. Although some researchers have already begun to use this method, Obama’s proposed budget would provide the tools necessary to spur this initiative along much further.
Naturally, most people with a disease that affects their day-to-day life are in favor of this initiative. Groups such as the Brookings Institute are calling out the significance of this initiative in that it will allow the use of available science to deliver the most effective treatment possible while also minimizing the potential for patients to receive unnecessary treatments that do not benefit them. Further, patient advocacy groups such as the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network are praising the President and his investment in this important initiative.
If the budget is passed, this will be a great opportunity for companies that play a significant role in developing treatments and therapies to help treat unmet medical needs. In the meantime, it is important for stakeholders, including those companies as well as patient advocacy groups and to use utilize earned, owned and shared media, including traditional, online, social, and creative channels to raise awareness for how important it is that the proposal is passed. As a PR professional with deep healthcare experience, I see it as part of our mission to help those voices shine through. Here at PAN, we’re excited to seeing how this initiative will change the healthcare landscape, and looking forward to being part of that change.