The Primary Goal of Medical Research Must Change

The Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) is a bold new venture between the NIH, ten biopharmaceutical companies and several non-profit organizations to transform the current model for developing new diagnostics and treatments by jointly identifying and validating promising biological targets of disease. AMP will begin with three to five year pilot projects in three disease areas: Alzheimers disease, type 2 Diabetes and the autoimmune disorders of rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus.

Partners have developed research plans aimed at characterizing effective molecular indicators of disease called biomarkers and distinguishing biological targets most likely to respond to new therapies. 

Biomarkers are pathways in data that could show a specific gene or protein can be altered by a drug to effectively fight disease.  The AMP seeks to reduce the current research model’s failure rate of developing new drugs (95%) and the cost of developing new drugs (each successful new drug costs more than $1 billion)

My comments:

The AMP is very unlikely to result in clinically significant benefits to Americans because it doesn’t change the idiotic and highly reductionist approach to medical research. The approach hasn’t changed because the primary goal that drives the research hasn’t changed – to increase the opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to make bigger profits.  .

If instead, the primary goal of research was to reduce the incidence of the major chronic diseases that afflict Americans, many more research dollars would be provided to the study of diet and lifestyle.

Dr. Dean Ornish, among other researchers, has shown that a low fat, whole food plant based (WFPB) diet along with other lifestyle factors can control gene expression. Therefore, genes that predispose a person to various chronic diseases can be inactivated by diet and lifestyle changes.

Spending money on trying to get Americans to live lifestyles that promote health and prevent disease would seem to be a smarter approach than trying to manipulate single mechanisms resulting from “faulty” genes.  Human biology is unimaginably complex with incalculable interdependent chemical reactions occurring so quickly it boggles the imagination. One of the reasons for the large failure rate of developing new drugs is that by altering one gene, protein or biochemical pathway, it often results in unexpected effects on untargeted steps of metabolic pathways. These effects often reveal themselves as dangerous side effects.  Wouldn’t it be better if we put more money into keeping these “faulty” genes at bay?

There are many examples of how diets dominated with whole plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes) can prevent and even treat our most common diseases.  These diseases include, but are not limited to:

It seems that most genetic research funding would be better spent on studying rare genetic disorders that cannot benefit much from lifestyle changes.  Of course, there wouldn’t be much profit in it for Big Pharma. 

I believe capitalism is the best economic system there is.  But Government’s propping up of Big Pharma is a far cry from capitalism.

The current reductionist paradigm in medical research is unlikely to change anytime soon. But we already have enough research for healthcare providers to implement diet and lifestyle interventions that address the cause of most chronic diseases. There is no need to wait for a paradigm shift in medical research to shift the medical treatment paradigm. The new treatment paradigm  will focus on treating the cause of disease with significant diet and lifestyle changes rather than treating the symptoms of disease with harsh drugs and/or needless and often dangerous procedures.

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