Over the last 10 years, sweeping changes have been occurring in the biomedical arena with the advent of a new area of medicine termed ‘precision medicine’.

Learning objectives

After reading this article, pharmacists should be able to:

  • Explain the concept of ‘precision medicine’
  • Explain the term ‘biomarker’ and provide examples relevant to current and future practice
  • Discuss potential roles for pharmacists in the future provision of precision healthcare including biomarker testing services
  • Identify features of a successful pharmacy biomarker testing service required when implementing the service.

Competencies addressed: 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.5, 3.6, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3

Precision medicine is a collective, integrated approach to the prevention and treatment of diseases based on consideration of an individual’s genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors.1 Several international precision medicine initiatives and working groups are now beginning to translate precision medicine into clinical practice.2 Pharmacogenomics is a crucial component of precision medicine.

What is precision medicine?

Precision medicine aims to tailor therapeutic treatment by taking into consideration an individual’s characteristics to achieve a more accurate picture of their health status and achieve more successful disease prevention and treatment. It has evolved from the earlier concept of ‘personalised medicine’, which is often misinterpreted to mean each patient would receive a medicine made specifically for them. This is not realistic at present.3

Initially, precision medicine initiatives will focus on identifying key features that distinguish different sub-groups of individuals, such as disease risks and sub-types, and treatment responses. As precision medicine advances our understanding of complexities of an individual’s disease and health conditions, the number of different treatment options will increase. Precision medicine aims to take into consideration a wider range of variables for each person to help identify their most appropriate healthcare options. This does not mean there will be a different treatment option for every individual; rather, a patient will be allocated to the broad treatment option best suited to their needs.

Test your knowledge on this article’s assessment questions here to earn up to 1.5 Group 2 CPD credits.