Personalized Therapy

As pharmacogenomics continues to progress, specialty pharmacists may dominate treatment for certain diseases.

One of the transformative trends in pharmacy practice that I wrote about early this year in Pharmacy Times was “personalized therapy.” I predicted that as pharmacogenomics progressed we would see the opportunity for pharmacists to individualize a patient’s drug therapy consistent with that patient’s genetic makeup. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal (August 13, 2013) entitled “Gene Breakthroughs Spark A Revolution in Cancer Treatment” suggests that I may be right. The article read, “Last year, nearly 1,000 cancer drugs were in clinical development, up 52% from 2006, says the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group. The ‘vast majority’ of that growth is from drugs targeted at genetic mutations, says Bill Chin, the group’s head of science and regulatory affairs.”

Right now, the focus seems to be on the genetic makeup of the tumor and not the patient’s genetic makeup, so does this mean that individualized therapy has limited application to cancer chemotherapy or is this just the beginning of a whole new opportunity for pharmacy? If I were just at the beginning my pharmacy career, I think I would be learning more and more about pharmacogenomics.

The other question I would be pondering is, “Will I have to specialize in order to play a role in this field, or will any pharmacists have an opportunity to engage in the field?” It looks like the field of oncology treatment, even with a growth in oral cancer chemotherapy agents, will be dominated by specialized pharmacists, such as board certified oncology pharmacists, and by specialty pharmacies. Will a similar domination occur if or when individualized drug therapies are developed to treat other types of diseases? I would certainly be thinking about that if I were just beginning my career.