The Myth of Average: Why Individual Patient Differences Matter


Authors: National Pharmaceutical Council
Publication: September 2013
Pages: 16

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Within today’s health care environment, so much of the research that is conducted and the treatment decisions that are being made are based on assumptions of an “average” patient. But as we learn more about treatments and optimal care, it’s very clear that most patients are not “average” at all.

Our bodies respond in different ways to the same treatment because of a wide variety of factors, such as racial and ethnic backgrounds, age, genetics, chronic conditions, gender, environment, and even personal preferences when it comes to health treatments. A one-size-fits-all approach to health care will not provide patients with the optimal care they need and deserve.

In this publication, “The Myth of Average: Why Individual Patient Differences Matter,” the National Pharmaceutical Council explores the reasons behind differences in treatment effects and offers a checklist that patients can use when talking to their health care providers.

Among the multiple issues covered, the booklet also includes:

  • information on the science behind patient differences,
  • the importance of comparative effectiveness research that takes these differences into consideration, and
  • the challenges involved in providing health coverage –and access to a range of different treatments—for patients who are not at all “average.”