Monday, January 25, 2010

Bringing From Ideas to Treatments Home

Photo credit: Sarah Gallagher

This is the last post in the
From Ideas to Treatments series.

In the last two posts in the series, I highlighted the importance of getting clinical researchers, health care professionals, and patients to think about the importance of diversity in clinical research. But there's more in the works that I think will also have a huge effect in getting the spotlight on this topic.

You've probably heard about the emergence of personalized medicine. What might that mean for you? Imagine one day being prescribed a treatment based on your specific genetic code. Now that's customer service!

Personalized medicine is touted as the health care system of the future, and as we further develop these techniques, diversity in research is going to mean something entirely different. Population-focused medicine will be a thing of the past, and so diversity will take on a whole new meaning. No longer will it refer to African-Americans, Whites, or Asians as entire populations. The focus will be on me, or you, as individuals. The diversity aspect will be unique to my genetic code, not my race or ethnicity.

But until we get there, we need to continue thinking about how best to utilize our clinical research paradigm, and that means continuing to improve the inclusion of diverse populations in clinical research trials.

How might America do that?

First, it seems that you can't turn on the news without hearing about health care reform. My purpose here isn't to pass judgment on any of the bills offered thus far, but to highlight how the idea of reform could work to improve inclusion in clinical research trials.

If we can get more people covered by health care, then they will have better access to health care professionals. This has the potential to introduce even more people to the idea of participating in clinical research trials.

Further, we've all heard about the movement to electronic records in the medical industry. Some of these programs are extremely advanced. They have a "smart" feature, that for example, will tell doctors when a drug that they have prescribed is not ideal for the patient. Imagine the capability to enter a patient’s diagnosis and have the system tell the doctor what trials that patient is eligible for.

Finally, one of NIH’s goals, currently in progress, is the formation of research consortiums, which recruit research institutions nationwide to collaborate and share resources, making the clinical research process more productive and efficient.

It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to translate an idea into a treatment and then make it accessible to the populations that need it most.

I hope that this series has helped enhance your interest in the research pipeline - and specifically in clinical research trials. I look forward to any thoughts or questions you may have!

This is Part 13 of 13 in our From Ideas to Treatments series.
Part 1 - From Ideas to Treatments
Part 2 - Basic Research: It Starts with an Idea
Part 3 - You're an Animal!
Part 4 - Can I care about animals and do research too?
Part 5 - Regulations for Animal Research
Part 6 - Clinical Research Trials
Part 7 - Patient Safety in Clinical Trials: IRB Approval
Part 8 - Recruitment
Part 9 - Health Disparities in Clinical Research
Part 10 - A Brief History of Inclusion Policies
Part 11 - Breaking News: Women and Men are Different
Part 12 - Including Minorities in Clinical Trial Research
Part 13 - Bringing From Ideas to Treatments Home

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