Profound change required to integrate precision medicines

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Precision medicines are not new but the technology is advancing rapidly with the growing prospect of transformational outcomes for patients. 

MTPConnect convened a roundtable on precision medicine involving participants from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology sectors. It also involved researchers, government agencies and members of key advisory bodies.

The objective was to consider what changes are required to ensure Australia can integrate these rapidly emerging technologies into the health system and the potential need for a national strategy for precision medicines.

A new whitepaper, to be launched today, reveals how the roundtable discussion reflected the complexity of the challenge with the identified but ostensibly simple need to adopt a consistent and standard language when it comes to precision medicines.

It has highlighted the significant opportunity of precision medicine with the possibilities ranging from enhanced screening programs, improving diagnoses and ultimately providing more tailored, effective and even curative treatments.

It says the potential benefits of precision medicine start with the individual patient but extend to the health system and wider economy.

The whitepaper says the roundtable found precision medicine encompass genomics and other omics (metabolomics, microbiomics, proteomics and transcriptomics), epigenetics (associated with gene-environment interaction), gene editing technologies (such as CRISPR) and the development of targeted therapies specific to an individual’s disease profile.

These precision medicines are driving rapid and transformational technological advances, driven by the sequencing of the human genome, the expansion of bioinformatics capabilities and increased data storage capacities.

Yet according to the whitepaper, profound changes will be required across the health system to ensure the equitable delivery of precision medicines to Australian patients.

It says this could be highly challenging due to the high upfront cost but also because it will require a high level of collaboration across different levels of government and stakeholders.

It identifies required changes focused on health system infrastructure, workforce capability and an increased understanding of precision medicine across the general population, strong and clear data governance systems as well as fit for purpose regulatory and reimbursement systems.

The report says roundtable participants agreed precision medicines, related technologies, their accelerating development and the nature of evidence collection, will challenge current legislative frameworks governing Australia's regulatory and reimbursement processes.

It also says participants believe harmonisation with international practices will be important to ensure Australia maintains its position as a valued global player in research and innovation.

To fully integrate precision medicines into the Australian health system and achieve equity of access, roundtable participants said a cultural change will be required, reflecting the profound differences precision medicines bring to treatment and patient outcomes.

Dr Amanda Ruth