Personalized Medicine-Slowing Down for "Free Riders"


Personalized Medicine-Slowing Down for
Personalized Medicine – Slowing Down for “Free Riders”

This article appeared in Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitor, January 14, 2013, and is reproduced with permission.

For the longest time, researchers and scientists could not figure out why some women with breast cancer responded favorably to tamoxifen while others do not. Even though 70% of breast cancer patients shared the same pathology, a third of those women taking tamoxifen received no benefit from the drug. Then, in September 2012, a research team from the University of Manchester’s Paterson Institute for Cancer Research announced that it found the answer. A rare protein was located (a “biomarker”) in women who were resistant to tamoxifen that appeared to block the drug’s cancer-fighting activity. Doctors now predict that a simple “screen” will soon be developed to identify women who express this biomarker and spare them not only the expense, but also the false-hope of taking a drug that does them little good.

This is the future of personalized medicine (PM). With enough information about a patient’s genetic, proteomic and metabolomic “profile,” doctors someday will ensure that the right drug is administered at the right time and in the right amount, to safely and effectively treat almost any disease or condition. Because PM promises to improve patient care while reducing costs, it is often called the Holy Grail of healthcare. Nonetheless, the promise of PM still has significant hurdles to overcome, one of which is the economic paradox confronting drug companies. Many manufacturers, despite having superior research skills and extensive patient data files that could be enlisted in PM efforts, are electing to watch PM developments from the sidelines. Simply put, it is not often in a drug manufacturer’s interest to invest in PM, especially when such investment can lead to lower drug sales. In the case of tamoxifen, drug manufacturers are well aware that as soon as a cost-effective protein screen is developed, a third of their patients may stop taking their drugs.

Please read “Personalized Medicine — Slowing Down for ‘Free Riders’” for more information.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to discuss this topic further, please contact your Fish & Richardson attorney or the author:

Terry G. Mahn
Washington, DC
[email protected]