Interestingly, patients can now be treated in advance for diseases they are prone to. In addition, patients can now have drugs manufactured specifically for them based on their health needs. These are the benefits of personalized medicine.
Personalized medicine is a new healthcare innovation, which proposes medical decisions, practices, treatments, and products that are custom-made for each individual patient, based on that patient’s genetic make-up.
This medical model differs from traditional clinical diagnosis (or “generic medicine”) because it involves identifying each patient’s genetic information and allows accurate predictions to be made about a person’s susceptibility of developing diseases, the course of disease, and the most appropriate treatment. Therefore, personalized medicine aims majorly at preventing diseases (such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases) rather than trying to cure them.
Although personalized medicine promises to transform healthcare, it is not yet feasible in Nigeria – for these reasons:
Firstly, poverty is one major problem that may stall personalized medicine in Nigeria. As of present, the average Nigerian barely earns up to one dollar per day. According to the handbook of the United States National Library of Medicine, genetic testing and profiling costs between $100 and $2,000 (N15,000 – N300,000). This may not be too costly, considering the benefits of the model, but it is far beyond what most Nigerians can afford.
Secondly, the acceptability of personalized medicine by Nigerians is very doubtful. Aside the problem of illiteracy, most Nigerians believe in reactive medicine rather than the preventive model. It would be very hard to convince a healthy Nigerian to go for genetic testing as way of preventing diseases that may likely flare up in the future. (Even in the face of obvious ailments, most Nigerians are nonchalant, let alone in the absence of health issues.)
Thirdly, Nigeria lacks the facilities needed for personalized medicine to be implemented successfully. Presently, there are less than ten DNA laboratories in the country – which has a population of about 140 million people. In addition, there are not enough facilities and expertise for effectively handling sophisticated information, which personalized medicine deals with.
Furthermore, for personalized medicine to succeed in Nigeria, the country’s physicians will require a solid background in genomics and proteomics. Only this can qualify them for analyzing genetic test results and giving relevant recommendations for preventing diseases. However, most Nigerian physicians presently lack this necessary background.
Finally, in my humble opinion, Nigeria is not yet ready for personalized medicine because of the huge financial obligation that the model would impose on pharmaceutical industries (and manufacturers of other healthcare products). Nigerian pharmaceutical companies produce drugs based on generic templates and rations. In contrast, personalized medicine requires custom production of drugs – a criterion that makes the model far more expensive and in fact, unrealistic in Nigeria as of present.
Even though personalized medicine is now being implemented in some advanced countries, Nigeria is not yet ripe for it. Perhaps in the near future, it would become feasible in Nigeria.