The Promise of Personalized Medicine

Personalized medicine could provide solutions to one of the biggest challenges facing our country – the rising cost of health care. Canada currently spends around $200 billion on health care each year, which is roughly one-tenth of GDP. As a 2011 Frasier Institute study indicates, Ontario is spending more than half of its total revenue on health care and “total provincial health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 7.5 percent over the last 10 years.”

Personalized medicine will dramatically change the medical care landscape by improving upon current knowledge of such things as disease progression and drug efficacy.

  • Current practices for prescribing medication within classes of drugs are relatively arbitrary – performed using the ineffective ‘test and react’ approach – and many patients do not respond to the first medication they are prescribed. For example, on average, SSRI anti-depressants are ineffective for 38% of patients, and cancer drugs are ineffective for 75% of patients[¹]. Furthermore, there are an estimated 200,000 severe adverse drug reactions in Canada each year, which cost somewhere between $13.7 and $17.7 billion and result in 10,000 to 20,000 deaths. Diagnostic tests to identify whether a person will respond positively to a given drug, or have a potentially life-threatening reaction to the medication or dose, could save billions of dollars, increase the quality of care and prevent fatalities.
  • Chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory diseases currently affect two out of five Canadians above the age of 12, and are on the rise. In 2010, Canada spent 58 percent ($68 billion) of its total health budget on chronic care and chronic diseases cost Canadians an additional $122 billion in indirect income and productivity losses. Identifying high-risk individuals alongside early diagnosis and treatment will improve the lives of millions of Canadians and have a significant impact on our economy.

[¹] Spear, B.B., Heath-Chiozzi, M., & Huff, J. (2001). Clinical application of pharmacogenetics. Trends in Molecular Medicine, 7(5), 201-204.