Public health

Enthusiasm for precision medicine ‘premature’ : experts

Thursday, 6 Aug 2015

The increasing focus on  ‘precision’ medicine is misguided, detracting from broader investments to reduce health inequities, two US public health experts argue.

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine Sandro Galea and Ronald Bayer noted that the National Institutes of Health most recent Estimates of Funding for Various Research, Condition and Disease Categories report showed that total support for research areas including the words ‘gene,’ ‘genome’ or ‘genetic’ was about 50 percent higher than funding for areas including the word ‘prevention.’

While investments in precision medicine may ultimately “open new vistas of science” and make contributions to “a narrow set of conditions that are primarily genetically determined,” enthusiasm about the promise of this research is premature, they said.

“We need a careful recalibration of our public health priorities to ensure that personalized medicine is not seen as the panacea for population health,” Galea said.

“We would love to see the same enthusiasm directed to research initiatives that would affect the health of millions of people, such as treatments of chronic diseases, and policy changes to address poverty, substance use and access to education.”

“Without minimizing the possible gains to clinical care from greater realization of precision medicine’s promise, we worry that an unstinting focus on precision medicine by trusted spokespeople for health is a mistake — and a distraction from the goal of producing a healthier population,” they wrote.

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