US biopharmaceutical research companies currently have 435 new medicines in R&D targeting 15 leading chronic conditions affecting older people, say new industry data.

The new treatments are all now either in clinical trials or under review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), says the data, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of American (PhRMA). They include:

• 110 potential new treatments for diabetes, which affects 10.9 million Americans aged 65 and over;

• 62 for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, affecting 1.5 million and 27 million US citizens, respectively;

• 67 for Alzheimer’s disease, which it is estimated could affect 15 million Americans by 2050 if no new medicines are found to prevent, delay or stop the disease’s progression;

• 61 for heart disease, including heart failure, hypertension, ischemic heart disease and high cholesterol; and

• 40 for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which affects around 13 million US citizens, most commonly those aged over 65.

Chronic diseases - led by heart disease and cancer along with stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and other conditions - pose their greatest risks as people age, says the report. The US National Council on Aging (NCOA) estimates that, today, 92% of older people are living with at least one chronic condition, and 77% have at least two. It also reports that chronic diseases account for 75% of US healthcare spending, with direct expenditures for such conditions reaching over $262 billion in 2009.

And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 95% of healthcare costs for older Americans are for chronic diseases, with the cost of providing healthcare for one person aged 65 or older being three to five times higher than the cost for someone younger.

Among the potential new treatments discussed in the study are:

• a potential new class of lipid-lowering treatments that would block a protein from interfering with the removal of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol from the blood;

• a medicine in development for heart failure that relaxes blood vessels and reduces fluid buildup, which could reduce damage to the heart and other vital organs related to the damage associated with heart failure;

• a next-generation, long-acting oral medicine to treat type 2 diabetes that increases insulin secretion resulting in lower blood sugar levels, making it potentially a once-weekly versus daily treatment; and

• a potential first-in-class medicine for Alzheimer’s that inhibits beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme (BACE), which could reduce plaque formation and modify disease progression.