State of the Industry 2010: personalized medicine through 2013

October 1, 2009

State of the Industry survey results

Looking at the big picture, personalized medicine can potentially include an array of services beyond specialty prescription drugs.

"People will say it is difficult to implement [personalized medicine] because trying to get people to be accountable and readily involved in their own healthcare decisions is not always easy," says Terry Seligman, RPh, president of Navitus Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefit management company. "There is a lot of technology involved, and a lot of scary decisions at a time when you or a member of your family is sick."

"A lot of how we can control costs and get better outcomes will depend on looking at patients individually," Seligman says.

Specialty pharmacy includes new drugs that target specific genetic syndromes and disease states, especially for cancer and hepatitis. The best known use of personalized medicine includes specialty drugs for breast cancer, which have greater efficacy for patients with a certain genomic profile.

"There would be efficiencies if you have drugs that are more specific," Seligman says. "The problem is they tend to be expensive because they are biotech drugs, and they are not easy to make. Generics are difficult [to produce] when you're talking about biotech drugs."

Seligman notes that many health plans are struggling to apply personalized data effectively and correctly. He says the conversion is "critical" if personalized medicine has any chance of succeeding.