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You are no doubt familiar with many consumer products used by millions. Most people buy the top selling detergent or shampoo or toothpaste. Some women buy the same outfit. And, unless you go to the same place at the same time, it works just fine. You understand that the manufacturer can lower the cost to each of us by mass producing the product, basically, a one-size-fits-all approach.
But does that work when it comes to your health? We’ve done it that way for years. You have certain symptoms so your treatment may just be just the same as the patient before you. And things should turn out just fine. Right? Well, maybe not. Doesn’t your family history mater? What about drug allergies? What about how you digest certain drugs? What about your risk of other illnesses? And do you have a subtype of an illness that needs to be handled totally differently?
Welcome to the world of “personalized medicine” where your illness will truly be approached in a unique way so you get what’s right for you. The bedrock of personalized medicine comes first from the completed mapping of the human genome, the collection of all the genes in one’s body. Now we are beginning to understand how variations in one’s genetic profile can put us at higher risk for this disease or that.
You may have read about companies such as 23 and Me where you can pay to have an analysis done. The problem is doctors don’t know what all the variations mean yet, and even if they did, what they would do differently. But that is changing bit by bit.
What’s fueling the change is computing power. Imagine those super computers that mapped the human genome and all the data they had to crunch. Believe it or not we are now approaching being able to do a genetic workup on a patient, for example a cancer patient, for $1,000 or less. The good news is there are new medicines coming out that match up with the needs of patients who have some specific genetic variations. These are patients who will do best with a personalized approach and more and more of these niche medicines are being developed.