March 15, 2016

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Precision Medicine Initiative Anniversary

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Precision Medicine Initiative Anniversary

February 25th, 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative. This initiative, which was proposed by President Obama with significant GOP support, seeks to revolutionize the way that health care is practiced and delivered. The premise of this initiative is to provide individualized treatment plans, based on an individual’s genetics, health history and lifestyle choices, rather than the standard treatment options. In turn, the hope is that this innovative approach to health care will lower medical spending costs and ultimately find cures to diseases that are not fully understood.

The Precision Medicine Initiative has partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in developing a pilot program with Vanderbilt University and Verily (formerly called Google Life Services) to help launch the first wave of this project. It is expected that there will be 79,000 individuals enrolled in this study by the end of the year. By collecting genetic information from these individuals, the goal is to be able to answer questions about the key factors that maintain health and cause sickness. Overall, the President has budgeted $215 million for the effort, which will be allocated to the NIH along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

Another phase of the Precision Medicine Initiative is the push for data release, which would allow patients to have easier access and a better understanding of their medical information. This is a valuable step in allowing patients to share their medical information with research projects as well as the precision medicine research group. Individuals that chose to volunteer their medical data would also receive a guidance document to help them adhere to the rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In President Obama’s speech, he acknowledged the obstacles that this initiative might face in the future. He noted that drug companies might not be enthused with the idea of having to create new treatment options for smaller groups of patients, even though this would prove to be more beneficial to patients. Despite the possible pushback, he said, this approach would aid physicians in determining the best treatment options that would fit the patient’s needs. According to President Obama, this could become the foundation “whereby 10 years from now we can look back and say that we have revolutionized medicine in areas like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or some of the other diseases that have caused so much pain and suffering for families all across the country.”

AAOS Office of Government Relations intern Rolanda Willacy, of Howard University College of Medicine, was a contributing writer to this article.