Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Merging of Medical Methods

Part 1: Intro to PM and CER

It seems obvious that each person is unique, right? Then why is it that our medical system doesn’t always take that into account? Our current system for testing drugs in clinical trials requires that participants fit strict criteria to take part in the study. So, the results of the trial can only show how a therapy will work in people who fit those criteria, which most patients don’t.

Personalized medicine (PM) and comparative effectiveness research (CER) are two important movements in biomedical research both working with the understanding that patients have diverse backgrounds and thus need more personalized treatment.

PM takes into account a patient’s individual information, particularly their genetic makeup, when making treatment decisions. CER aims to test treatments against each other in patients with diverse backgrounds to understand which treatment is better for different subpopulations.

Some people think these two concepts are in opposition because PM is concerned with individuals, while CER studies the outcome in populations. But the truth is that PM and CER work in concert to identify the right treatment for the right person at the right time. In fact, we need CER to test and advance PM so that each patient can get the most effective treatment.

Tomorrow I'll describe how medicine can be advanced when PM and CER work in concert. Stay tuned.

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