When it Comes to Patients, There is No Average

Next month, the National Pharmaceutical Council will host a forum — which BIO is cosponsoring — that will focus on the unique differences among treatment effects in individual patients and how policymakers, payers, and providers could shape programs and policies to acknowledge those differences.

"The Myth of Average: Why Individual Patient Differences Matter," taking place on November 30 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The forum, “The Myth of Average:  Why Individual Patient Differences Matter” is taking place on November 30 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. More information and registration materials are available here.

That’s the what, where and when, but let’s take a closer look at why this discussion is so important.

There are differing schools of thought that pull public policy in contrasting directions. On one side, there are stakeholders who believe medical innovation is driving health care costs skyward and the best way to contain those costs is to direct patients to the health solutions judged to be most cost-efficient. According to their theory, if one drug works for the “average” patient, then it isn’t necessary to pay for alternative therapies or for simple genetic tests to figure out what treatment might work best.

On the other side, there are stakeholders like us who see what’s happening in the genomic sciences. We’re constantly expanding our breadth of knowledge in terms of the genetic differences between patients and how those differences effect the efficacy of therapies. In short, a biopharmaceutical approach that is well suited to one patient’s unique makeup may not be well suited for his or her next door neighbor.

At stake here is what policymakers do with the initiative known as comparative effectiveness research, which is a comparison of multiple treatments to aid patients in making health care decisions. Using CER to build a strong body of knowledge comparing and contrasting multiple treatments can have positive effects for patients. It’s another thing altogether to use this research to restrict payment to those medications that work for an “average” patient who simply doesn’t exist.

I commend my colleagues at the National Pharmaceutical Council for bringing together many of the nation’s foremost experts on this issue to shed a brighter light on this all-important subject.

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