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US pharma: 465 drugs in R&D for chronic diseases affecting over-65s

World News | March 22, 2013


Lynne Taylor

US pharma: 465 drugs in R&D for chronic diseases affecting over-65s

US biopharmaceutical companies are currently developing 465 new medicines that target the 10 leading chronic conditions affecting people aged 65 and over, according to new industry data.

The medicines, which are all now in clinical trials or under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are diverse in scope, notes the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which has published the data. The products include:

- 142 for diabetes, which affects 10.9 million Americans aged 65 and over - around 26.9% of this age group, and with a total economic cost to the nation in 2007 of $174 billion;

- 92 for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (OA), which affect 1.3 million and 12.4 million Americans, respectively, in this age group. Work-related OA costs the US up to $13.2 billion a year;

- 82 for Alzheimer's disease, which has an estimated 5.4 million US patients and could afflict nearly eight million by 2030 unless a treatment or preventative measure is found.  Today, someone in the US develops the disease every 68 seconds, and by 2050 this rate is expected to rise to one new case every 33 seconds, creating up to 16 million patients by that time;

- 48 for heart failure, which affects 5.8 million US citizens, plus ischaemic heart disease. For 2009, the total direct and indirect costs to the US of cardiovascular disease and stroke was estimated to be $312.6 billion; and

- 40 for chronic obstruct pulmonary disease (COPD), which impacts more than 13 million adults in the US with the highest prevalence rate in people aged over 65. In 2010, the cost to the nation for COPD was put at $49.9 billion, including $29.5 billion in direct health care expenditures, $8 billion in indirect morbidity costs and $12.4 billion in indirect mortality costs.

PhRMA notes that the treatments which are currently in development include:

- a medicine that aims to prevent or reverse progression of Alzheimer's disease by using a human monoclonal antibody specifically designed to draw beta amyloid protein away from the brain through the blood system;

- a medication that combines two long-acting drugs, allowing for once-daily dosing in COPD;

- a potential first-in-class treatment for type 2 diabetes that increases insulin secretion without causing insulin to significantly lower blood usage;

- a product that recruits a patient's own neural stem cells to repair or protect against damage to the central nervous system from stress hormones, which can lead to depression; and

- a potential first-in-class medicine that targets the pain associated with osteoarthritis by inhibiting a gene-encoding protein that plays a role in inflammatory pain.

Among the targets for other medicines also currently in R&D for older people are: 
- cataracts, which affect nearly 22 million Americans aged 40 and over. By age 80, more than half of all US citizens have cataracts, and the direct medical costs of treating them are put at $6.8 billion a year; 
- chronic kidney disease, which is estimated to affect 13% of the US population, most of which are undiagnosed, and the prevalence for people aged 60 and older is put at 35%; 
- depression, which affects more than 6.5 million older Americans, including 70% more women than men, and has become one of the nation's most expensive illnesses. Left untreated, depression costs more than $521 billion a year in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs;  and 
- osteoporosis, which is responsible for two million broken US bones and $19 billion in related costs every year. By 2025, it is predicted that osteoporosis will be responsible for around three million fractures in the US and costs of $25.3 billion every year.

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