If 2018 was touted as the year for blockbuster drugs, then you had better hang onto your seat for 2019.
This year promises some innovations that will transform healthcare. Look forward to treatments that may finally offer an effective alternative to opioids, protocols that give the green light for an expanded window to treat stroke, and the more mainstream use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare.
For at least a decade, researchers have known that not everybody fits into the same square box when it comes to pain relief. Unfortunately, many people who have filled opioid prescriptions earlier than expected have been unfairly labeled as drug-seeking, when possibly the reason could be that opioids just don’t work for them. Pharmacogenetics is the field of medicine that correlates a person’s genetic make-up with their ability to both metabolize and respond to drugs. With increased access to genetic testing, pharmacogenetics promises an end to unnecessary and ineffective prescribing, and a way to manage the opioid crisis.
Doctors are human, and although they do their best to provide you with the best healthcare they can possibly deliver, they too can make mistakes. AI is already used extensively in sales and business – we all know we only need to think about something or mention it to a friend for it to pop up as an advertisement on a search page or in our email inbox. Well, AI is about to hit the field of medicine hard, but in a good way. AI promises to help physicians work smarter, not harder, by analyzing and interpreting mountains of data in a split second, making point-of-care decisions faster and more accurate and reducing physician burnout.
ACT FAST is the acronym used by the National Stroke Foundation to help people quickly remember the signs and symptoms of a stroke and what to do about them. Early stroke treatment is the key to a better recovery, but guidelines released in 2018 from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) widened the eligible window for mechanical thrombectomy to 24 hours in selected patients. This is anticipated to lower the risk of disability and increase the chance of recovery for a number of future stroke patients. In addition, the recognition of hemorrhagic strokes, much less common than ischemic strokes, will become easier with a new scanning visor that will aid in the diagnosis of stroke by detecting bleeding in the brain.
One of the most remarkable medical advances in the past ten years must be the way that we treat cancer. Gone are the days when the only glimmer of hope came in the form of a treatment that might bide you a few months, but not without affecting your quality of life. Biologic therapies (that use a person’s own immune system to fight cancer), in addition to cancer vaccines, are the right step towards a cure for cancer. And with new immunotherapeutic targets being discovered almost daily, our pool of biologics will only get bigger in 2019. Also, eagerly awaited are new approvals for breast cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-small cell lung cancer, and thyroid cancer.
The use of 3D printing of patient-specific medical devices is expected to be better utilized in 2019, and with immersive virtual and mixed reality simulation programs becoming more commonplace in medical teaching facilities, young doctors will have more opportunities to safely sharpen their skills. In 2019 we can also look forward to more RNA-based therapies, and continued advancement and innovation in robotic and cardiac surgery. Expected new FDA approvals include upadacitinib for rheumatoid arthritis; risankizumab for psoriatic arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and other inflammatory conditions; Viaskin Peanut, a once-daily patch for the desensitization of children with peanut allergies; and esketamine, a nasal spray for major depressive disorder.