Friday, May 10, 2013

Economics of genomics

The Economics of Genomic Medicine - Workshop Summary

Just imagine for a while that you are concerned about economic implications of genomics and you invite a distinguished professor of genetic medicine - James Evans- to the introduction of a workshop at IOM. Instead of more is better, he sends a cautious message to the audience. And beyond the potential and valuable applications for those that are already ill,  he openly critizises the current trend towards the use of genetic tests for the healthy:
Assessing the risk of common diseases through whole genome analysis of a healthy person has received the most attention, but this attention “is somewhat misplaced,” Evans said. Currently, assessment of genetic risk alleles has “rather feeble predictive power” because the increased risks tend to be small. “From a clinical standpoint I don’t know what to do with patients who are at a 1.3 relative risk for colon cancer,” said Evans. “Am I going to hurt them by doing more intensive screening, or am I going to help them?”
"I know what almost everybody in this room is going to die of,” said Evans. “We are going to die of heart disease or cancer. . . . We are all at high risk for these maladies regardless of our [genomically determined] risk. And many at decreased risk for heart disease will still die of heart disease. So we are all going to benefit from interventions that lower heart disease. We don’t really need to target people. It doesn’t do anyone much good to tweak our estimation of an individual’s relative risk for common diseases which we are all at high absolute risk of developing anyway."
 “The old adage that an elephant for a nickel is only a bargain if you have a nickel and you need an elephant applies here. I am not sure most of us need that elephant. Even if free, perceived low cost is an illusion, because the misapplication of medical tests—and make no mistake, whole genome sequencing is a medical test—is very expensive,”
A clear message for geneto-enthusiasts and marketeers. Cost-effectiveness of genetic testing starts with assessing if they are effective. If not, any economic analysis is useless . This is obvious, but we do need to repeat it, just in case.

PS. Must read, Reinhardt's blog.

PS. A report to understand the financial markets' mess and why recovery is far by now.

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