Globally, there is a growing demand for precision medicine, and last month’s announcement that a life-extending drug for cystic fibrosis will be available on the NHS in England was one step in the right direction of a changing era in healthcare.
People with cystic fibrosis living in England who stand to benefit from life-saving drugs Orkambi, Symkevi and Kalydeco will now receive them as part of a two-year managed access agreement with the manufacturer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals.
According to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, over half of the people with cystic fibrosis living in England [nearly 5,000] will benefit from these drugs, highlighting how important access to innovative precision (or personalised) medicines is. Whilst conventional cystic fibrosis treatments target the symptoms, precision medicines tackle the underlying genetic mutations which cause the condition, resulting in more cost-effective treatments that actually work. The drugs now available will improve lung function and reduce breathing difficulties, which will most likely improve the health of thousands of people in the UK, and also reduce hospital admissions.
Personalised healthcare is a step away from the traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment for patients. We are all unique, as is our health. Our health can be determined by many factors including our environment, lifestyle and our genome. Precision medicine uses data and processes like genome sequencing to predict more accurately what treatments are most likely to be effective for a particular disease and a particular patient.
Whilst personal care is not new, we are moving to an era of truly personalised medicine care due to the technological and scientific advances we now have access to.
We know that cystic fibrosis healthcare professionals have been and still are campaigning hard to ensure that people have access to innovative precision medicines, and they are not alone. The National Institutes of Health [NIH] and multiple other research centres launched their long-term research project entitled The Precision Medicine Initiative which aims to bring precision medicine to all areas of health and healthcare on a large scale.
The Programme Coordination Group which is made up of various representatives from UK government, funding bodies, charities and a learned society, is being used to map the precision medicine landscape in the UK. The Group aims to ensure that precision medicine true delivers benefits to patients and to the economy.
The news that Orkambi, Symkevi and Kalydeco is available on the NHS in England was met with praise from the general public and people in the healthcare sector, and highlights how the face of healthcare is changing. Can we look forward to a more personal approach to treatments in the future? It seems we can.