Every time I talk with Lloyd Minor, the Dean of Stanford University School of Medicine, I come away with a sharper, fresher, more illuminated perspective on one topic or another. And such was the effect of our conversation on Thursday. This time, Dean Minor made a good case that the goal of “precision medicine”—the meme célèbre in healthcare circles today—is the wrong one.
The right goal is “precision health.”
Now, before you pooh-pooh such a rewrite as mere semantic nitpicking, consider the distinction—which, in truth, is profound. “‘Precision medicine’ is a subset of ‘precision health,’” says Minor, but while the former is a necessary aim, it isn’t anywhere near sufficient. “The goal of precision health is to predict, prevent, and cure— precisely. Precision medicine is the ‘cure’ piece, but even that isn’t possible if we don’t move the intervention curve closer and accurately predict and prevent early enough in the progression of disease.”
Refocusing our sights on precision health won’t be easy—because it involves achieving something more elusive even than a technological leap or a breakthrough in biological understanding: It demands a wholesale re-thinking: We have to convince and train people to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to their own health. We have to communicate a radical new message to every stakeholder in the current health care regime—providers, insurers, policymakers, and consumers: that preventing disease and maintaining well-being are as essential as repairing what’s broken. Which in policy terms, translates to: essential enough to pay for.
And…um, in real life, that translates to: essential enough to merit appropriate insurance coverage, serious academic investigation, significant research investment, and, yes, a sense of “ownership” by consumers.
Why on earth would we make such a collective investment? Because the return on that investment is a heckuva lot better than the ROI we’re getting now.
Not convinced? Just look at your next hospital bill.
Sy has the day’s news below.
|Clifton Leaf, Editor in Chief, FORTUNE|
A case study of Facebook’s digital advertising potential for pharma. Facebook launched a new pharma-targeted digital ad practice about six months back—and it could become an attractive option for drug marketing in an era when consumers are leading increasingly online lives, as a report from FiercePharma highlights. Drug giant Allergan teamed up with Facebook, Pasquale Communications, FCB Health, and Mediacom to create a Facebook page for the dry eye medication Restasis, which is facing competition from a new rival therapy by Shire. The targeted ad campaign included patient testimonials, links to dry eye quizzes for potential customers, and even follow-on ads for patient assistance savings cards. And it was a pretty huge success; the videos received more than 3.5 million views and the overall campaign produced 35 million impressions and a 10.5% ad recall lift, the marketing and brand awareness metric defined by the estimated number of people who are still likely to remember your ad two days after they’ve seen it. Pharmaceutical companies pump massive amounts of money into television direct-to-consumer advertising in the U.S. (one of the few developed nations where this is legal). But as the Restasis case study shows, social media will also become a crucial piece of the marketing puzzle. (FiercePharma)
The NIH has an algorithm that can diagnose genetic disorders through facial recognition. Can you tell if a person has a genetic disease just by looking at their face? Well, there are a few computer programs out there that can, including one used by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), STAT reports. These algorithms are are trained with patient photographs taken by doctors; with this learning dataset in place, the program then scans pictures of patients and analyzes various facial features and their placement on the face. And at least one private firm, Boston’s FDNA, has an app called Face2Gene that sends doctors a list of potential conditions a patient may have based on their facial makeup. The question is whether or not one of these programs will eventually be approved by the FDA as an accompanying diagnostic tool for physicians. (STAT)
Axovant spikes as former Medivation chief named new CEO. Shares of biotech Axovant soared more than 27% in Thursday trading as the company announced the appointment of Dr. David Hung, the former CEO of Medivation, as its next chief executive. Hung will succeed current CEO Vivek Ramaswamy, the biotech wunderkind who’s overseen several blockbuster IPOs, who will still serve on the firm’s board (and is still CEO of Axovant’s parent company, Roivant Sciences). Axovant is focused on creating brain drugs; in Hung’s previous role at Medivation (before Pfizer bought the firm for $14 billion last fall), he oversaw the approval of the best-selling prostate cancer drug Xtandi. (Forbes)
Bain Capital, Cinven strike deal to purchase German drug maker Stada. German pharma firm Stada has agreed to support Bain Capital and Cinven’s $5.63 billion buyout bid for the company. “With this combination, we will create a foundation for tapping the great potential of Stada together with Bain Capital and Cinven and continuing to grow profitably,” said Stada CEO Matthias Wiedenfels in a statement. With the deal, Bain and Cinven have emerged on top in a contentious bidding war with several other private parties, and continues the trend of independent generic drug makers in Europe being purchased by larger outfits. (Fortune)
THE BIG PICTURE
Insurers may soon profit from Obamacare’s marketplaces. A new analysis by Standard & Poor’s lays out a starkly different picture of Obamacare’s marketplaces than political rhetoric (and a cascade departing health insurers) would suggest. In fact, the firm specifically says that the marketplaces are not in a “death spiral,” as mant of the health law’s critics have claimed. “[W]e are seeing the first signs in 2016 that this market could be manageable for most health insurers,” analysts wrote in a report. Health insurance companies have had a hard time figuring out the individual market, which is more unpredictable than large-group and employer-sponsored insurance sectors. But recent evidence suggests that some are beginning to understand proper pricing and getting better at predicting just how costly their customers’ medical care will be. Still, there are serious problems in certain Obamacare markets. For instance, Iowa will only have two companies selling plans in the entire state, and a massive swath of counties across the U.S. only have one insurer offering Affordable Care Act plans. (New York Times)
House Speaker Paul Ryan Needs a Win After the Failed Health Care Bill, by Associated Press
Economist Sees 60% Chance of Recession in Near Future, by Lucinda Shen
Will Net Neutrality Have a ‘Stop SOPA’ Moment? by Jeff John Roberts
Microsoft Bought This Startup to Boost Its Cloud, by Barb Darrow
|Produced by Sy Mukherjee|
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