Personalized Healthcare and the Increasing Value of the Custom Compounding Pharmacy
When Angelina Jolie announced on May 14, 2013, that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy, many individuals began viewing personalized healthcare, preventative measures, and custom treatments in an entirely new light. Jolie made her life-changing decision after discovering that she had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. She learned this information by submitting to genetic testing for BRCA1 gene mutations, the gene that can cause breast cancer.
Jolie’s experience is a perfect example of how personalized healthcare is changing the field of medical treatment. Already, we are beginning to see the effects this realm of healthcare has regarding major medical issues, like cancer treatments, as well as less-publicized, but still serious problems, such as foot ulcers in diabetics.
The personalized healthcare revolution will continue to have a growing impact on all aspects of healthcare, including the pharmaceutical industry. It will create new challenges, like the need for increased education, while at the same time create new opportunities including the ability to take advantage of a custom compounding pharmacy.
How Did We Get Here — A Short History of Personalized Medicine
In his book On the Nature of Man, Hippocrates put forth that the human body contains four “humors,” specifically blood, yellow bile, black bile, and water. According to the Greek doctor, good health and temperament is only obtainable by keeping the four humors balanced. Unbalanced humors caused sickness. During this time, apothecaries, the early pharmacist, would create personalized diagnoses aimed at keeping the humors in balance.
Beginning in the 19th century, modern medical research quickly proved the notion of humors false, but the alternative put forth resulted in treatments that made broad assumptions about everyone in a population. Drugs and treatments were developed to address the needs of the masses, with only limited involvement by pharmacists to tailor medicine to a person’s weight or gender.
In 2003, the sequencing of the human genome changed everything. Sequencing the human genome has allowed medical professionals to tailor diagnostic procedures and medicine to address the needs of the individual instead of the masses. Additionally, the cost to sequence DNA has decreased, with some companies offering DNA sequencing at a cost nearing $1000. As the price of genetic testing drops, personalized healthcare becomes less of a dream and more of a reality. The likelihood for people to have their genetics evaluated is seeing an uptick; more individuals are becoming knowledgeable on their specific medical predispositions.
Potential of Personalized Healthcare
This new reality offers many benefits to patients and medical professionals alike. In general, it shifts medical emphasis from reactionary to preventative, such as in the case of Jolie. Once the defective gene was identified, she took steps to immediately reduce her risk of cancer.
Pharmacists will also see new challenges and opportunities due to the advent of personalized healthcare. One benefit that is already occurring is the reduction of trial-and-error within the prescription process. For example, it has recently come to light within the medical community that North Africans, Ethiopians and Arabs may metabolize codeine sulfate faster than other populations. Through genetic testing, it was identified that people who have genotype CYP2D6*2×2 are more prone to this faster metabolic rate. Armed with this knowledge, a pharmacist can modify the codeine sulfate dosage to address the particular needs within this population.
Although the potential of personalized medicine is great, there are also many challenges associated, especially for a pharmacist. In particular, pharmacists need to educate themselves around such topics as pharmacogenomics.
Although most pharmacists have heard of pharmacogenomics, new advances are being made in this field every day, particularly in relation to cancer research. For example, recent research has confirmed that patients who test positive for the UGT1A1×28 allele have trouble accepting the colorectal cancer medication.
Other advances within the field include situations where patients prescribed four or more medications every day risk missing a pill due to “pill burden.” To prevent this, polypharmacy, a subfield within pharmacogenomics, suggests that all of the medications can be combined into a single pill, reducing the burden to the patient.
Regardless of one’s current capability in this area, it is important to stay current and informed through continuing education courses and online resources.
Despite the challenges associated with personalized medicine, the opportunities and potential that come with it are great. The real potential is with the advent of the custom compounding pharmacy.
Within a custom pharmacy, pharmacists are able to take compounding ingredients and use them to build or tailor treatments for a particular patient. Using this tailored approach, prescriptions can be created that are more likely to be accepted immediately by the patient’s body and immune system. This will help lead to improved patient results in the long run as the specific needs of the patient are addressed.
Addressing the Increasing Need for Custom Compounding Pharmacies
The creation of a custom compounding pharmacy has many advantages for patients and pharmacists alike. With individuals able to access more personalized and tailored treatments, there will likely be an increased demand for reliable compounding services. This provides pharmacists with the great opportunity to expand offerings, bolster reputation and positively influence the bottom line.
Achieving the dream of personalized medicine and a custom compounding pharmacy will require overcoming the challenges associated with educating both pharmacists and patients regarding best practices and treatment methods. It will also take a partner able to supply high-quality compound pharmaceutical ingredients to pharmacists for the development of patient treatments.
Pharmaceutica North America wants to be your resource for high-quality compounding products and information. For more about pharmaceutical compounding and purchasing bulk APIs, please contact Pharmaceutica North America, your trusted compounding resource.