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India is blessed with the youngest workforce, and thus as a country, we have immense potential. Still, at the same time, we are sitting on a ticking time bomb where healthcare is concerned. There has been a consistent increase in the lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, mental health issues, etc. Plus, we have the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, in the next decade or two, the drop in fertility rates and increased lifespan will significantly burden healthcare expenses.
There is no compact solution for this problem. Yet, Genome Sequencing and Pharmacogenomics can assist in reaching some form of solution. In simpler words, pharmacogenomics helps researchers identify disease-causing genes related to illnesses like cancer, heart diseases, and many others. If a particular community has a common gene associated with a specific illness, giving them personalised medication will create the desired impact. Also, it will generate the Indian genome data. This data can provide us with a better understanding of the risk factors involved, which would aid in making precise decisions around resource allocation. It will further assist the government in prioritising and targeting the right public health programmes. It can also open avenues for innovative approaches to disease prevention and treatment.
Presently the Indian healthcare is based more on a reactive mode of medicine. We need to move to a proactive mode to control our medical expenditures. The genetic report will usher us into the preventive healthcare era. People will be more aware of their physical condition and make informed choices. This will heavily cut down future medical expenditure and physical distress.
Most of the western countries already have Universal Health Care in place. However, these nations realised that with increasing human life span, it is impossible to support population health with current medical practices, as the current medical practices focus mostly on disease management rather than cure. This resulted in new technologies enabling molecular screening of individuals to diagnose disease more precisely. Then, based on the diagnosis, therapies and medicines are prescribed to match the patient and their condition better.
Personalised Medicine and Genome Sequencing
Personalised medicine is the need of the hour, and the base of any personalised medicine prescription is the sequencing of the genome. The concept of 'One size fits all needs to be eliminated in medicine. We all respond to different medicines based on our genetic makeup. The medicine given to an individual suffering from one medical condition doesn't need to suit the other person facing similar medical issues. In addition, each person's body responds differently to a given set of medicines. Next-generation sequencing helps decode our genetic structure and suggests medications based on our genetic makeup.
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Personalised medicine also signifies a shift in power from the healthcare system to the healthcare consumer. They will soon have access to detailed molecular-level information about themselves to diagnose disease and monitor the effectiveness of therapy.
Suppose India wants to deliver the best possible healthcare to its citizens and become an innovation hub for personalised medicine. In that case, it is important to act now. First, the government should give more grants for healthcare research. Second, the Public-Private partnership should be encouraged for genome projects. Third, more awareness needs to be spread around pharmacogenomics and its advantages among the masses.
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